Is this the unluckiest teacher in Britain?

13th November 2009 at 00:00
It's a case of, `Bad luck, Sport' as he loses two jobs in a single year at recession-hit preps

A sports master has been dubbed the "unluckiest teacher in Britain" after being made redundant from two prep schools that are due to close within the space of a year.

Tony Smyth, aged 59, is among hundreds of independent school staff who have joined the dole queue since the summer of 2008, mainly as a result of the credit crunch.

This year alone has seen at least nine school closures and eight mergers, largely in small prep schools, but Mr Smyth is thought to be the first person to be made redundant from two.

He is now seeking another job, after being told that his current school will close at the end of the school year, a victim of the recession.

Mr Smyth joined the growing ranks of Britain's 2.4 million unemployed for the first time last summer when the convent school where he taught geography, St Margaret's in Midhurst, West Sussex, shut its doors.

Fortunately, he was snapped up by another school, Arundale in nearby Pulborough, where he is now teaching sport.

But his job on the sports fields of the co-educational prep is to be short lived: the school's owners announced it would be closed in July 2010 because it was no longer viable.

Staff at the school are receiving help in polishing their CVs and applying for new jobs, but Mr Smyth said it can be tough to start afresh.

"In a way I was very lucky when I lost my job at St Margaret's because I moved straight into another job that I love.

"There is a lot of ageism in schools and many of my colleagues didn't find any work at all.

"If you are in your late 50s and have been in one school for some time, you are not particularly marketable. I suppose I was rather unlucky in that lightning struck twice.

"Fortunately, we have been well-supported and we are determined to enjoy the rest of the year."

But Jenny Bulled, regional officer for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said not everyone who lost their jobs had been so well- treated.

She said: "When an independent school closes or jobs are lost through a merger, long-serving teachers find themselves suddenly having to pitch themselves to the state sector, where conditions, such as class sizes may be different."

She said that at some schools which were trying to cut costs through small numbers of redundancies, workers felt "very isolated".

Mr Smyth's story has emerged as independent school teachers prepare to attend ATL's annual conference for the private sector in London tomorrow.

The union is due to release results of a major survey of independent school teachers' pay and conditions, which has already revealed that at least 60 teachers have taken pay cuts in order to save their jobs.

Delegates will also hear a talk on the new vetting and barring scheme by Sir Roger Singleton, chair of the Independent Safeguarding Authority.

End of the road

Private schools that have announced closure this year

  • Morley Hall Preparatory Derbyshire
  • Windmill House, Leicestershire
  • Arley House, Nottinghamshire
  • Alcuin, West Yorkshire
  • St Margaret's, West Sussex
  • Baston, Kent
  • Belcanto London Academy Theatre, London
  • Attenborough Prep, Nottinghamshire
  • Arundale, West Sussex
    • Source: Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

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