What keeps me awake at night - I glimpsed my future as one of the walking dead

7th October 2011 at 01:00

I am 29, energetic and giving my all as a teacher, but every term takes its toll: by the end I am ruined by the relentless pressures and the toing and froing of the job.

Each morning, the alarm groans at 6.30am and I reassure myself that there are only another seven weeks until half-term and a lie-in. But when half-term rolls around, I find myself unable to enjoy it due to sheer exhaustion, spending a fair chunk of my time a gibbering wreck in the corner of my living room. Should alien body-snatchers come to call, I'm not sure I would qualify as a healthy specimen. To think that I might have to endure these pressures for another 39 years - and end up with a lesser pension than the one I signed up for - is soul destroying.

Every school day gives me a glimpse into my future as one of the walking dead who were once in their late 20s, energetic and able to teach. You've seen them too, the retirement chasers who skulk about the corridors unable to make eye contact for fear of bringing on a heart attack or a stroke, or of dropping dead on the spot. Maybe this is all part of the big plan: a few thousand more teachers popping their clogs before they become eligible for their hard-earned pensions would make a bit of a dent in the deficit.

But, conspiracy theories aside, teaching until the age of 68 is a daunting prospect that could have widespread ramifications for the quality of education. A natural slowing of productivity will come with an ageing population of teachers who, in all likelihood, will be unable to meet the everyday demands of the job.

Further to this, the public, the profession and the policy-makers must all consider what will become of the next generation of teachers. Many have speculated that talented graduates will be deterred from entering the profession by the crisis over pensions, but what about the bright young things coming up through the ranks at present? Where will they go when they are unable to progress up the career ladder due to the blockers at the top holding out for retirement? One must ask not only what working until 68 will mean for those already in the job, but also what it means for the cycle of educating the next generation of pupils and promoting the next generation of teachers.

So, as I continue to hit the alarm clock and leap out of bed for another day at the chalkface, I sincerely hope that those responsible for the education system are not hitting snooze on the challenges that will soon arise, as the repercussions of an ageing teaching profession are felt throughout every school in the country.

The author is a secondary school teacher. Tell us what keeps you awake at night - email david.marley@tes.co.uk.

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