Shame on the unions

10th October 2003 at 01:00
Your article on supply teachers (TESS, September 19) implied that somewhere between a fifth and a quarter could be retired teachers who are in their 50s and 60s and have come back into the profession after taking early retirement, usually after a very generous lump sum enhancement on their pension.

According to the Scottish Executive and local education authorities, these early retirement packages were meant to allow older teachers who were "burnt out" to leave the teaching profession early. The jobs that were being vacated would be available for younger teachers who are currently stuck on the supply list.

However, things have not quite worked out like this. In some schools, teachers who took early retirement have been asked back on a long-term supply basis. This has denied work to teachers already on the supply list.

In other cases, the teachers who took early retirement to get out of teaching have somehow had a change of heart and have registered on the supply list with several authorities.

I have even heard those teachers complaining about the amount of work they have been offered. They say they will have to turn down supply work because they do not want to pay any tax on their pension. If they earn above a certain monthly wage, their retirement pension is taxed. Poor souls, my heart goes out to them.

This situation is nothing short of a national scandal. Retired teachers have been in the profession for over 30 years and know most of the head teachers and deputy heads who give out the supply work. In some schools, this has become an old pals act. But newly qualified teachers are new to the teaching profession and do not know any headteachers or deputy headteachers.

The real villains in all of this are the teaching unions and professional associations which are meant to represent teachers just coming into the profession. I have sat in the main staffroom of the school I work in and heard union representatives advise teachers who are taking early retirement to register on the supply list and then see all the deputy headteachers in the area to tell them they are available for supply work.

Therefore, we have the situation where the majority of retired teachers have a generous pension and are only doing supply work to get the money for life's little luxuries - while newly qualified teachers already on the supply list for a few years cannot get enough regular full-time supply work to live on.

The trade union and professional associations should be ashamed of themselves. Their officials have allowed this scandalous situation to arise and I just hope that they can live with their consciences and sleep easy at night.

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