Why we need early retirement

10th December 2004 at 00:00
In some respects, our front-page picture of Rachel Miles tells you all you need to know about the job prospects of newly-trained primary teachers in Wales. There she stands, balancing a stack of shoe boxes under her chin, wondering why she bothered to spend three years at university training to be a teacher.

What should be done to help Rachel and all the other would-be teachers who are waiting on tables and pulling pints while they scour the jobs pages? Should the Welsh Assembly offer all NQTs a guaranteed induction year, provided they are prepared to travel to the parts of Wales where the jobs are? Our three-week investigation into the NQT jobs crisis suggests that this strategy, favoured by both Plaid Cymru and the teacher unions, is only superficially attractive. It would be expensive and do little to help the many mature students who need to find jobs closer to home. And it would create another difficult problem: what to do with the surplus teachers at the end of the induction year?

In the long term, the Assembly government needs a better balance between supply and demand - a realisation it has already come to. But in the short term the best strategy may well be the one advocated by Professor John Howson, one of the country's leading teacher-recruitment experts (page 3).

He argues that an early retirement scheme for teachers in their late fifties would provide all the vacancies that are needed, and as schools will be saving on the salaries of more expensive older staff, the overall cost implications should be neutral.

If officials in the Assembly government and local authorities are not already tapping away on their calculators and costing such a scheme they should get them out now. The expensively-acquired training that Rachel and others received must not be allowed to go to waste.

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