Engineers can be sociable too;Letter

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
ONE IS indebted to your article "Older staff challenge school hierarchies" but appalled by the unthinking prejudice that Colin Broomfield revealed. It can only be true in a minority of cases that "some scientists and engineers find it hard to work in social environments after years in the laboratory".

I have returned to teaching after working in engineering for 25 years; most engineers I know have no difficulty working in a social environment, and the few who might have a problem would never try to enter the teaching profession.

I suspect that Mr Broomfield is generalising from a few unfortunate incidents. Prejudice of course remembers in detail every case favourable to its argument while every contrary case is considered to be the rare exception that proves the rule.

Had Mr Broomfield made such remarks about an identifiable ethnic minority or one sex rather than the other, he would probably be open to prosecution; alas no such protection is afforded to those of us who are over 55.

I fear this pernicious attitude is widespread; my 83 job applications last year produced 6 interviews. I am grateful to my present headteacher and head of department for taking me on, although my present post is indeed only for two terms (due to financial circumstances rather than potential complaints from parents).

The support received from colleagues - in my department, on the pastoral side and in the school senior management - has been tremendous and without it, I doubt I would have succeeded. If there are schools and hierarchies that cannot offer such support then they need to put their own house in order, not heap the blame on mature entrants to the profession.

Perhaps heads really believe their pupils are better served by supply teachers and those on short-term contracts. I take my hat off to these members of the teaching profession, but I do wonder if it is not even better for the pupils to be taught by teachers who although much older, will be there for far longer.

John L Temple 9 Parklands Drive Springfield Chelmsford Essex

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