Colleges are still ageist

14th October 2005 at 01:00
I am a 58-year-old graphic artist with a degree in education, fine art and illustration from Goldsmith college. I teach art, design and the use of computer software in a creative way in further education.

Coming back to teaching, I had to retake teaching qualifications which had lapsed during 25 years working as an illustrator and graphic artist.

With all due modesty, having worked for 25 years honing professional and academic standards in drawing, painting, style, design theory, and computer graphics, I believe that I have achieved a high degree of artistic competence, knowledge and individuality in these areas.

I believe schools in receipt of applications for teaching posts consider a teacher in his or her fifties a poor investment, even though the average teaching occupancy in any one school is fewer than 12 years.

After submitting between 50 and 80 job applications, the only full-time work I can find is supply teaching in schools as a general teacher. The further education situation is worse still with its endemic cuts and cash shortages resulting in a poor turnover of posts.

I think ageism is a highly active component in the selection process applied in education, as it is in many employment situations in Britain today, in spite of existing legislation. I also believe the system belies the idea that education needs skilled and professional practitioners from industry I find that education is packed with artistic mediocrity. I find the average art teacher is supported in many instances by A-level art, PGCE and a degree in whatsoever, under-experienced and under-skilled in most areas of art education, yet teachers are still able to hold on to the work placements.

I do, however, teach part time for Age Concern, and do some community adult work teaching creative, digital software use. I give lectures to art groups on design theory where higher skills and ideas in art can be exchanged. But in adult education the cuts in spending are having a major impact on available work.

It seems wasteful that the two factions of industrial skills and education can't be brought together for future generations. This would enable them to acquire learned, artistic techniques, styles and know-how, and would give commercial practitioners the opportunity to get in touch with future generations of school children and young people. In this manner these skills can be reinvested.

As far as specialist schools are concerned, with further education colleges being closed down, the chance for older pupils to acquire these skills is being lost for good.

All this leaves me to draw the conclusion that age does matter, whatever the available skills.

Stuart Leaback 26 Haddington Road Bromley

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