Some say age is just a number and when it comes to teaching; experience and passion are all that matter. But others believe that teachers are past their sell-by date once they reach their 60s.
It was recently reported by the Telegraph that pensioners will be encouraged by the government to come out of retirement and retrain as teachers under Conservative plans currently being considered by David Cameron. Ministers want to use the expertise of elderly people who have recently retired to help educate thousands of British youngsters.
In some ways, Cameron is right to consider the innate skills and acquired attributes of the retired for educating young people. Pensioners who have previously worked in the Sciences and Engineering will be targeted as part of Cameron’s plans.
The plans arose after Mr Cameron has repeatedly warned by the education sector that too many British youngsters are failing to get jobs because they leave school with poor English and Maths qualifications. One Education Minister told The Telegraph: “It’s a very attractive idea. We have a big shortage particularly of high quality Maths, English and Engineering Teachers.”
The Prime Minister also stated earlier this year said that young people need to learn that English and Maths are vocational subjects for use in everyday life. Mr Cameron continued: “We have got to make sure that we have got a welfare system that encourages people to work and an education and skills system that provides people with the skills they need to take the jobs that are being created.”
The news comes after an international study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that British school children are lagging so far behind their peers in the Far East that even pupils from wealthy backgrounds are now performing worse in exams than the poorest students in China. The children of factory workers and cleaners in parts of the Far East are more than a year ahead of the offspring of British doctors and lawyers, according to the report that was published earlier this year.
However, some school heads did express concern over health issues for the older candidate and the associated costs of insuring them: “Health and health insurance are big issues. Disability coverage is not allowed over 60 and health insurance skyrockets,” reports one school head.
Another school director from an African country agrees, “I think that an older candidate must demonstrate physical fitness…I really feel that that is the main issue. A fit, active (coaching?) older candidate would have a good chance at my school.”
However, some people have the opinion that over 60s simply wouldn’t be able to cope with a full time job, especially due to the fact that 50% of teachers leave the profession within their first 5 years. Yet there are obvious financial benefits to taking up a job post-retirement age.
Consider Technology teaching; young people will always be 3 steps ahead of those older than them, simply because they’ve grown up with the internet, iPads and smart phones; technology is second nature to them.
In fact, the same survey revealed that some school heads and recruiters are eager to hire older candidates with extensive experience and the wisdom that can only come with age. “While the job search investigate is challenging, teachers can definitely find positions, particularly at the high school level where rigorous academic courses require experience. Experienced administrators are also in a good position if health is not an issue,” one school head explained.
Educating young people should be a priority for the entire country, but there needs to be some balance between using the maturity of the older generation to counteract children and teenagers, and exhausting the retired who have earnt their pension and time to themselves. To form this balance, experience and knowledge need to be paramount.
Marianne Calnan (Social Media & Marketing Administrator)