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Teachers teaching longer, working harder.

Mike Hodgkiss
Mike Hodgkiss 28 March, 2017

With the current crisis in teacher recruitment and retention possibly reaching a critical point a government review on the implications of teachers working until their late 60s states that it needs to gather more evidence – despite being published a year late.

The Department for Education finally released the interim report from its Teachers Working Longer review last month.

The review was set up in October 2014 to make sure pension age changes did not detrimentally impact the workforce.

An interim report was due to be published in February last year. Board minutes show the initial report was finalised the following month, but it has waited almost a year for ministerial sign-off.

Despite the delay, the report produced just three “overarching” conclusions:

  1. experienced teachers are a valuable part of the workforce;
  2. everyone in education has a part to play in maintaining teacher health;
  3. there is a “strong case” to continue the review past its original two-year time frame.

Nearly one in ten teachers left the profession last year – the highest proportion for a decade – and almost a quarter of teachers now leave within three years.

The Department for Education has been criticised by numerous groups – unions and other government agencies – about its unwillingness to acknowledge a problem.

The DFE looks at the wastage of teachers – this is the number of people either leaving the profession, retiring or going on maternity leave.

For full-time teachers, this is at the highest level in more than a decade. In 2016, schools recorded a loss of 9.5 per cent of staff.

A study last year found secondary school teachers work an average of 48.2 hours per week, with one in five working 60 hours or more – 12 hours above legal limits set by the European Union. It means teachers in England work an average 19 per cent longer than those in other countries. They do an extra 2.7 hours per week compared to teachers in the USA, 11 hours more than colleagues in Korea and a full 19.8 hours per week more work than educators in Italy.

The government now plans to commission more research, including “in-depth qualitative research with a small number of schools” and possibly “larger-scaled surveys of teachers and school leaders” looking into the issues of teachers remaining in the classroom until they are at least 68 if born after 1979.

How old is too old for a teacher?

It’s worth remembering that at the age of 99, Minnie Solomon still has two keep fit classes a week to teach. Minnie is the UK’s oldest fitness instructor, a job she has been doing for more than 50 years. She survives on a diet of lettuce, one shower a week and her trusty tipple of a glass of brandy each day.