It's never too late to start climbing

19th September 2003 at 01:00
Like many others, I glance through the jobs pages in The TES each week. No real need - I'm just curious to know what's being offered. I have a permanent post, some points, and I'm on the upper pay scale. And at my age, I'm too near retirement to be considered for something new.

Then I saw this advertisement. The post - head of a pupil referral unit - looked interesting so I sent off for details. Just out of interest, and with the hope of learning something about how others offer similar services. The trouble was, I was so interested by the vacancy that I filled in the forms and sent them off. I heard nothing during the following few weeks so threw the papers away, except for the parts that I thought could help me in my present work.

Then I got a phone call. Could I come for an interview? I panicked. Going to visit and finding out more about their service would be useful, but I also knew that I wanted to make a reasonable impression. Here I was, now, with scant detail about the post or the organisation. The interview went much as I expected. Not one of my better performances.

There was no phone call that evening; it came instead two days later. "We want you," they said. "It's you or a re-advertisement."

Many people of my age would take all this in their stride. Years of experience. Qualifications. Lists of courses attended. A senior post would be an obvious next step. But I've only recently started work with excluded students. I have no special needs qualifications. I've been too busy "doing it" to think about going on courses.

But the fact that I've been busy "doing it" is the reason why they want me to manage their team. My experiences and the level of success that I have had with excluded students is what they need. I am, in football parlance, the old pair of legs to help steady the back four.

It is easy to be flattered into accepting a post. A younger person might have thought nothing about taking up the new challenge; starting a new life in a new part of the country; seeing promotion as another step up the ladder. At my age, I have to ask myself if I want a new challenge of this nature. Do I want to start a new life? Am I on my way up the promotional ladder?

I'm happy with a new challenge - although my new employer knows that I may well burn myself out in a couple of years. A new life? Now there's a question that only time will tell. I have opted to be a weekend commuter.

I've done this before and the family has survived. Promotion? That's the joke in all this. I have never hankered after being top dog and, at my age, know that I will never become one. The post is the post. The responsibility points are what come with the post. They will help with the pension calculation but, like extra qualifications, are unlikely to give me a leg up any ladder.

But as time goes by, the rules are changing. Teachers may well be asked to work beyond the age of 65 - or may wish to. I put myself in this second camp. If working beyond 65 becomes closer to the norm, then teachers of my age will still have around 10 years to retirement. Although headteachers (like police officers) seem to be getting younger and younger, teachers in their early 50s are still serious candidates for senior posts. When the retirement age shifts beyond 65, then people of my age should also be serious candidates for senior posts. But until that time, I must consider myself the flag-bearer of the older generation with my war cry of "life begins at 58".

The writer wishes to remain anonymous

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