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Private fears over retirement age

Rigorous checks on teachers' performance must be in place to ensure staff working over the age of 60 are up to the job, a leading private-school headteacher has said.

Cynthia Hall, president of the Girls' Schools Association, this week denied claims that private schools were prepared to flout new European Union legislation banning compulsory retirement at 60. But, speaking before the GSA's annual conference at Alton Towers next week, she insisted all schools must be properly prepared for the 2006 law change.

"There has not been any indication that schools are contacting their lawyers to find out how they can fight it," she said. But she added: "If teachers want to carry on working, potentially into their 70s, it is going to put a much greater emphasis on performance review.

"Heads must be prepared for the possibility that they could have a very well-respected member of staff who wants to carry on working beyond the stage when their performance is acceptable."

Currently most private schools require staff to quit at 60, unlike the state sector where they can work until 65. The Association of Teachers and Lecturers claimed that six schools had already told staff they would fight the forthcoming legislation.

This week The TES spoke to one 59-year-old teacher who is facing forced retirement at the end of this academic year, even though she wants to work on.

The science teacher, employed at a leading boys' school in the North, said:

"As it stands the situation is unacceptable. Sixty is not a magic age where all of a sudden you become too tired to work. Many teachers want to work on to improve their pension but find their path blocked. Yes, you can work on in the state sector, but starting at a new school aged 60 is a challenge most people will not be able to face."

Teaching union members are due to lobby their MPs on Tuesday to fight plans to extend their pensionable age to 65. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, National Union of Teachers and ATL will be among the Trade Union Congress unions who will be campaigning in Westminster against the change, which will affect new teachers from 2006 and existing teachers from 2013.

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