Robbed of our sunset years

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Dammit. I just had a letter confirming that, when I am old, I will not wear purple, but I will get 80 quid a week for my old age pension. And that I have to wait until I'm sixty-two-and-a-half to be old. And it seems that someone doesn't quite have the guts to make me wait until I'm that age to retire, but does intend to make the retirement age 65 for teachers in the not so dim and distant future.

I find myself almost pleased that I just sneak in, but have the sense to actually know that expecting anyone - male or female - to wait until 65 to retire from teaching is all about economics, not carrying on with our worthy skills.

For a while it seemed quite easy to swing a case for early retirement. In fact there were such good deals, they were almost begging us to go at 50.

But let's look at the reality. By the age of 55, the stamina needed to control classes, work on your feet and your wits all day and still lug jotters home isn't there. By 60, there are definitely better things to do with one's time, and by 65 . . . well, we could just about plan our funerals, because I don't think we'll last much beyond that.

There are exceptions, usually when there is a spouse at home - already retired -doing all the chores. But speaking from my own experience, I'm on the downhill slippery slope and, if I last until I'm 60, I'll be gobsmacked.

Look at the supply teachers who have already retired. There was one eccentric who spent hours recounting how heavy his football boots had been - not to mention the ball - 30 odd years back, and how the brain worked.

His pupils dozed peacefully through much of this. Enticed back after we had all breathed a sigh of relief at his departure, he often was in the wrong department, still wittering on about boots and balls. When senile dementia was diagnosed, no one was surprised.

And have you noticed how few women come back from retirement? There are two reasons for that. First, having given their all anyway in their working years, they want to enjoy their freedom. But second, they don't come back because they would take it so seriously, and do it properly and it would be exhausting. The old men tend to chunter round the classes, do no marking, ignore the mayhem and go home considerably richer - on a full pension and their daily bag of gold.

We need to challenge the retirement age. Teaching is a hugely physical job, it is stressful (especially when we are not at our best) and we should all be out by 60. There is going to be a huge problem when us fiftysomethings have gone. But forcing us to die in the job isn't going to solve anything.

So I would urge us all to write to our MP and our MSP and point out that they are cheats and liars and should rethink this one.

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