Glasgow wants Government help to inject new blood into teaching "to refresh the profession". City leaders believe vigorous, young staff would be more likely enthusiasts for its planned assault on underachievement.
The Secretary of State is to be approached for funding but it is a race against time. The council wants early retirements to take effect by August 31 when the teachers' superannuation rules change. Authorities will thereafter have to fund not only the enhancement in both the pension and the lump sum but also part of the basic pension and lump sum.
The full council has approved a "new blood for old" proposal from education officials which could benefit up to 100 staff over the age of 50. They would qualify for maximum pension enhancement of five years at a one-off cost this year of Pounds 479,700. Annual pension costs add Pounds 159,900 to the bill although this would be offset initially by hiring replacement teachers on lower salaries.
Glasgow's move is partly motivated by growing alarm, common to all councils, at the ageing profile of the profession. Officials have warned: "A serious difficulty will emerge in 10-15 years' time as the bulk of teachers reach the age of retirement, resulting possibly in a critical shortage within the city."
School closures and falling rolls have not eased the problem since surplus staff have first call on vacancies. Many younger teachers have had to put up with an endless series of temporary contracts. The 1994 national school census showed that one in 10 teachers were on full-time or part-time temporary contracts. Of the 5,615 teachers involved, 80 per cent were women.
Glasgow says a trawl of staff to seek candidates for voluntary severance earlier this year produced 400 enquiries. This was well in excess of the reduction in posts required by savings targets but the 272 teachers released by March 31 were replaced by redeployed staff.
The city wants the over-50 volunteers to come from the ranks of unpromoted teachers, assistant principal and principal teachers in secondary schools, assistant heads in all sectors and primary deputes. This would help those who have found it difficult to cope with the pace of curricular change, create job security for younger staff and allow the council to ensure there was a managed exit.
There is a precedent in an Pounds 11 million "new blood for old" scheme introduced by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council in 1994 to ease out ageing lecturers and hire younger replacements.
The most recent Scottish Office figures, for September 1994, showed the average age of primary and secondary teachers was 42.