Escaping the age trap;Career Development

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Keith Milchem highlights the plight of teachers who are older, but still enthusiastic

I am one of the victims of what I have come to call the "Age Trap". For the past nine years I have been head of science in a secondary school in Hastings. I am 45-years-old and have made several unsuccessful attempts to become a deputy headteacher over the past three or four years.

As I have children who are settled in their own education, I have not wanted to move to another area (I have already moved house three times to win promotion).

I live in a largely rural area, so there have been relatively few deputy-headteacher posts that I could apply for.

Recently I decided on a change of tack and applied for a head of science post in another school within my "application area". I was interviewed but was not successful.

As a 45-year-old applying for a second post as head of science I was viewed with some caution by the appointment panel. But the truth is - by current standards - I am getting quite old to become a deputy head.

I feel I need a change of schools to revitalise me and maintain my enthusiasm for my job. I do not want to vegetate over the next 19 years in the same post. I have a lot to offer and want to be put back into the "spotlight" and "under the microscope" in a new school.

If I applied for a downgraded post, I would also be looked upon with a great deal of suspicion.

The Government is talking of fast-tracking new entrants into the profession. Where does that leave the older teacher with energy to spare for a new post? In my school there are at least six or seven middle-management posts filled by teachers of a similar age and experience as myself, who will remain trapped unless something changes and their experience is recognised and utilised.

It would be interesting to gauge to what extent this problem exists nationally. I certainly feel that unless something is done to remotivate teachers of my age, there will continue to be a race to get early retirement by whatever means is possible.

In the meantime, schools are increasingly being managed by disenchanted staff who will be blocking the very promotion possibilities that the Government is trying to "fast-track". This is not a satisfactory situation.

Parents and governors should be pressing the Government to sort out the problem. Future generations of pupils need to be taught by highly motivated teachers, not jaded middle-aged professionals who are merely serving out their time.

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