Encouraging recently retired people to go into teaching could help to solve teacher shortages in key academic subjects, education secretary Nicky Morgan has said.
Ms Morgan wants more people to become teachers “after a lifetime of doing something else”.
"I was heartened that a senior partner of a law firm emailed me last week to say, ‘I’m retiring and I’ve decided to go into teaching,’" she said.
“I think he’d be very good, but I’m not going to pass judgement on his classroom abilities until he’s been through all the training, but I think that’s very exciting.”
Her comments, made at a conference in London last week, came in response to a question about how schools could be expected to find enough teachers for Ebac subjects – English, maths, science, a foreign language and either history or geography – to all students. All pupils starting secondary school in September will be required to study these subjects to GCSE level.
Ms Morgan said teacher shortages could also be addressed by recruiting staff from overseas and by encouraging university and postgraduate students to enter the profession. She added that teachers themselves were the “best recruiting sergeants” and should “inspire the next generation” to go into teaching.
Ms Morgan’s comments came after the educationalist and philosopher Baroness Warnock used an interview with TES to outline her idea for a programme called "Teach Last", which would bring retirees into the classroom as teachers.
Lady Warnock said many people retired “when they are at the height of their powers”.
“There’s such a lot of energy, imagination and capacity for work left after most retirement ages,” she said.
Under Lady Warnock’s Teach Last proposal – inspired by the Teach First programme that has brought thousands of young graduates into teaching – retired professionals would be given “in-service training” before becoming paid teachers, working largely on a peripatetic basis with local schools.
Last night Lady Warnock welcomed the education secretary's comments.
"I would like to add the thought that to enter or re-enter the teaching profession does not necessarily entail an entry into full-time membership of a school staff," she said. "I think the idea of peripatetic teachers, shared between schools, is very important, and particularly so in the teaching of less popular languages, such subjects as constitutional history or the applications of mathematics and science."