23rd October 2020
A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development states that the average age of teachers in the UK has fallen since 2005 and nearly one in three primary school teachers is now aged 30 or under. Could ageism in teaching be to blame?
Across the internet, there are suggestions that some schools are making a conscious decision to hire younger teachers who are lower on the pay scale over their more accomplished colleagues. This could correlate to more schools moving towards academisation – where schools are more responsible for their own budgets and making cheaper hires might be seen as a saving. However, the knock-on effect is that students miss out on the benefits that come with having an experienced teacher. Older teachers, who have a true passion for teaching and have dedicated their careers to becoming great teachers, are finding they may be being looked over when new projects come up despite being the best person for the job. In extreme cases, teachers have felt pressure to end their teaching career earlier than they had planned, removing their experience, knowledge and passion from the profession entirely.
More experienced teachers benefit schools in different ways to newly qualified teachers. Whilst NQTs bring with them a fresh outlook and tend to be more comfortable with new technology, teachers with experience know the classroom and profession inside out. Traits such as presence, charisma, authority and confidence that are essential to truly successful teaching are developed throughout a career and only come with real in-class experience. Other great reasons to hire older teachers are:
NQTs need experienced mentors to be able to thrive in their new environment. Having an experienced person to bounce ideas and issues off is what mentoring is all about. For parents, the authority and knowledge of an older teacher can be reassuring if they are dealing with issues relating to their child’s academic success or behaviour.
When teachers have had a chance to trial, amend and adapt their teaching methods and resources, they are able to provide learning opportunities to students that they have personally tried and tested. Tailoring that knowledge to different pupils learning can have an incredibly positive impact on their academic success.
Surveys and studies into students and their relationships with teachers have shown that pupils of all ages value older teachers and they tend to be seen as more inspirational, better at controlling behaviour in the class and bring more subject knowledge and life experience with them to the classroom.
As schools become more responsible for their own budgets, it’s vital that teachers of all ages are given the opportunity to shine alongside their newly-graduated peers. Consider upskilling older teachers in technology or new management techniques and provide continued training and opportunities for CPD development, not just those following a post-university career path or programme. Mentoring schemes are another great way to tap into the professional experience of a teacher and your NQTs will be grateful to have the option to draw on a career’s worth of knowledge. Schools must find creative ways to harness the experience of mature teachers. Experience is a vital asset in teaching the next generation, let’s support teachers at all stages of their career and remove ageism in teaching.
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