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Retired teachers are lost treasures

I bumped into an old friend the other day. He is the retired headteacher of a local primary school and was carrying a shopping bag full of interesting bits and pieces relating to a hobby of his - writing styles and implements.

I asked him what it was all for and he said his old school had invited him to teach the children about calligraphy and pens.

We chatted and reminisced but, after we had parted, it occurred to me that I had just experienced an unusual thing - an ex-teacher not just willing to go back into school, but invited to do so. How very rare.

In fact, although some readers will say, "We get past staff members back in," I'm willing to bet it's a small minority.

Most teachers leave schools where they may have worked for 30 or more years and never cross the threshold again.

It says two things to me. First, it makes me wonder how well our schools know their staff. When I was a boy at grammar school, things were pretty formal, but we knew which members of staff played musical instruments, who wrote books, who were stalwarts of local organisations and so on. Even in those days, few came back after retirement - probably because they all worked until they were at least 65 and were understandably ready for a rest - but it was known what they could offer if required. These days, I doubt that many managers or governors know as much.

Secondly, what a waste. Teachers tend to be among that part of society that pursues hobbies and voluntary interests no matter how exhausted they may be by the day job. Just think what they could put back informally into schools after retiring.

If you add the fact that a high proportion of those recently or currently leaving the profession have academic degrees, and therefore a lot of knowledge, how much richer might our schools be for their presence?"

Colin Padgett is a tutor and examiner in Essex.

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