Figures obtained by The TESS show that older teachers are not delaying their retirement, putting paid to the argument that they are partially responsible for the desperate job prospects facing new teachers.
The most common retirement age of teachers has actually fallen over the past three years - from 63 years in 2007-08 to 60 years in 2009-10 - according to the Scottish Public Pensions Agency.
Its figures revealed that the average retirement age was 61.86 in 2007-08; 60.98 in 2008-09; and 60.16 in 2009-10.
The Educational Institute of Scotland said the data proved that councils, not older teachers putting off their departure, were responsible for the fact that younger teachers could not find jobs. Its general secretary, Ronnie Smith, called on local authorities to staunch the flow of jobs out of the education sector, and on the Scottish Government to abandon the concordat to ensure that money allocated for teachers was spent on them.
The latest Joint Staffing Watch figures on the number of local authority employees, produced by the Scottish Government, revealed that in March this year, there were 55,730 full-time equivalent teachers working in Scottish schools compared with 57,191 in March 2009 - a drop of 2.6 per cent and the lowest level since March 2003.
Since the teacher jobs crisis began to bite, one explanation consistently put forward by the Government and education authorities for the lack of posts for new entrants was that older teachers were putting off retirement beyond 60 because of the impact of the economic downturn on them and their families.
But Mr Smith said this week: "This finally lays to rest the myth that older teachers deferring retiral are blocking job opportunities for new teachers.
"The reverse is true. Most teachers are retiring at the earliest possible opportunity. Also, there is never any shortage of takers for offers of premature retirement. The real problem is that local authorities are cutting jobs by not replacing teachers who leave."
John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said he had always been sceptical about whether teachers postponing retirement was a big factor in the jobs crisis.
"The financial situation ultimately determines how councils behave," said Mr Stodter. "There has been a period over the last two years where they have not been recruiting and have been trying to reduce teacher costs because they are so significant in terms of the budget."
Two weeks ago, in the most comprehensive survey of probationer employment available, The TESS revealed that only 9 per cent of new teachers had found a permanent job in the authority which trained them, and fewer than 3 per cent found one in another authority.
A follow-up survey, which elicited responses from 18 councils (see panel), suggests that while authorities were seeing teachers retire, new teachers did not necessarily benefit.
In South Lanarkshire, 88 teachers retired last year but just two 2009-10 probationers received permanent or temporary contracts come August; in Renfrewshire, 55 teachers retired and only five probationers were taken on; in East Dunbartonshire, 88 teachers retired and just nine probationers were employed.
Other councils, such as Glasgow and Dundee, offered teachers enhanced packages to retire early. But this did not translate into jobs for probationers as the Scottish Government had predicted. In Glasgow, 98 teachers took early retirement and 47 of last year's probationers got jobs; in Dundee, 91 teachers took early retirement and 31 probationers got jobs.
Two authorities bucked the trend: West Lothian took on almost three times more probationers than it had teachers retiring, and East Renfrewshire saw just 34 teachers retire but took on 47 of its 2009-10 probationers.
A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "We are confident that action we are taking to support post-probation teachers into work will reap rewards."
OUT WITH THE OLD
*ANGUS 50 teachers retired; 22 took normal retirement (over 60); 27 took early; 32 probationers from 2009-10 received temporary or permanent contracts
*CLACKMANNANSHIRE 13 retired; 10 normal; 1 early; 10 probationers employed
*DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY 71 retired; 42 normal; 26 early; 27 probationers employed
DUNDEE 99 retired; 8 normal; 91 early; 31 probationers employed
*EAST DUNBARTONSHIRE 88 retired; 42 normal; 43 early; 9 probationers employed
EAST RENFREWSHIRE 34 retired; 24 normal; 10 early; 47 probationers employed
EDINBURGH 100 retired; 86 normal; 14 early; 38 probationers employed
FALKIRK 92 retired; 31 normal; 61 early; 25 probationers employed
GLASGOW 161 retired; 63 normal; 98 early; 47 probationers employed
INVERCLYDE 32 retired; 14 normal; 18 early; 21 probationers employed
MIDLOTHIAN 34 retired; 21 normal; 13 early; 18 probationers employed
NORTH AYRSHIRE 64 retired; 31 normal; 33 early; 11 probationers employed
NORTH LANARKSHIRE 95 retired; 58 normal; 37 early; 47 probationers employed
PERTH AND KINROSS 41 retired; 33 normal; 8 early; 5 probationers employed
RENFREWSHIRE 55 retired; 24 normal; 31 early; 5 probationers employed
*SOUTH LANARKSHIRE 88 retired; 65 normal; 18 early; 2 probationers employed
WEST DUNBARTONSHIRE 35 retired; 14 normal; 21 early; 6 probationers employed
WEST LOTHIAN 24 retired; 8 normal; 16 early; 70 probationers employed
*Where figures for earlynormal retirement do not add up to the total number of retirees, councils have not included data for other retirement categories, such as ill-health.