Teachers' union the NASUWT has warned that pupils are losing out in the classroom because older teachers are being forced out of their jobs because of age discrimination by school management.

NASUWT conference warns of ageism in teaching

At a recent educational conference, the NASUWT union has warned against the risk of allowing age discrimination against older teachers to thrive in schools.

At the conference on Sunday, Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT claimed that school children would suffer if experienced teachers are allowed to be pushed out before reaching their pension age because of ageism.

The NASUWT also highlighted a gender dimension to age discrimination in schools. Chris Keates argued that women are more at risk than men from being both under-valued and pressurised into quitting their posts before retirement.

Teacher leaving roles early has helped cause a massive teacher shortage, said be to “one of the worse […] since the Second World War”. Low starting salaries and slow pay progression had also contributed to the problem, as has the difficulty in attracting new teachers to the profession.

Age discrimination in schools

The union has demanded a culture change to keep older teachers in schools, as well as new strategies to tackle age discrimination in the workplace.

The NASUWT has called on the Government to ensure that ageing teachers are not penalised for their experience and expertise, but rather are valued for the skills they bring to the role.

Ms Keates warned that industrial action could take place if the situation does not improve.

A key contributory factor to the crisis is the competitiveness of teachers’ pay and rewards compared with pay of graduates in other occupations. The Westminster Government’s pay restraint in England and Wales has been compounded by schools setting increasingly higher barriers to pay progression. The Government now expects people to work longer, but the irony in teaching is that those with the experience and expertise are in too many cases being hounded out of the profession because they are older and more expensive. Older teachers are disproportionately facing being placed on capability procedures, report being denied access to professional development and are often put under intense pressure to leave their job. The losers of course are not just the teachers themselves, who often are forced out of a career they love, but the pupils, who are losing experienced, specialist teachers. The lack of action by the Government to promote respect and dignity for working people has led to a culture of disrespect and discrimination in schools.
— Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT

The Government condemns age discrimination against teachers

Older teachers bring a wealth of experience and expertise to the classroom, and their contribution should be valued. Any form of discrimination, including age discrimination, is completely unacceptable. We set up the Working Longer Review, and we are working closely with NASUWT and others to cover the issues related to teachers retiring later.
— A Department for Education spokesman