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Teachers are notshy of retiring early

The teacher-retirement rate is rising again. Although the provisional number for 20012 is 300 below the previous year's total the final tally will almost certainly be significantly higher. In each of the previous two years, the ultimate total has been 800 more than the provisional. This year's total could be above 11,000 for the first time in five years.

The number of teachers taking early retirement in 20012 is already greater than in any year since the rules were changed in 1997. It is now 50 per cent above the low point reached in 19989.

Retirement on age grounds stays above 4,000 for the third year in succession, a level not reached during the previous 15 years. If there is the same level of late reporting as in past years the total will rise above 4,500 for the first time. On the other hand, ill-health retirements are at their lowest level for 15 years despite workload and rising stress.

A quarter of teachers are over 50, so age-related retirements will continue to rise in the next few years. In March 2001, government figures showed at least 25,000 teachers were aged 55 to 59. This means age-related retirements are likely to top 5,000 in the next couple of years. With even more teachers in the 45 to 54 age bracket the retirement rate will rise to around 15,000 a year but may then "plateau" for the next 10 years.

In 20001, around 20,000 full-time teachers left teaching for reasons other than retirement. Given the rate of age-related retirements, this means that the number of full-time recruits will need to rise to 35,000 a year by 20056 unless retention improves. Much of the increase will have to come from new entrants, since the number of "returners" is declining, despite an apparent surge in their numbers in 2001. Keeping existing teachers will therefore be as important as recruiting new ones.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University and a director of Education Data Surveys. Email

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