General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Almost all teachers retire in their fifties


07/01/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Teachers are enjoying a 10-year head start into retirement, as almost all leave the profession in their fifties.

An Irish News investigation has found that hardly any teacher who quit the profession last year had worked right up to the state pension age - 60 for women and 65 for men.

Instead hundreds left early on grounds of redundancy, infirmity or "the efficient discharge of the employer's function" (ED).

The average retirement age last year was 54 years and 10 months.

Almost 40 principals - some as young as 51 - left because they were deemed no longer able to meet the demands of their job.

Unions say that many teachers are suffering from work-related stress and are considering premature retirement.

They say staff work in an environment where workload and bullying behaviour are increasing, that the demands of the job cannot be met with the resources and time available and that many find retirement is the only option.

Almost 700 teachers quit the profession at the end of the 2006/07 school year. The majority took redundancy, whereas about 110 left on the grounds of illness - including all those who left before reaching the age of 50.

The most common age to retire was 55. Eighty-three teachers left at this age. Fewer than 50 worked past 60.

Every one of the 39 that retired on ED grounds was a principal or vice-principal.

ED is often implemented when the ability of a school to meet its commitments to pupils in a professional manner is deemed to be significantly impacted by allowing the principal to remain in employment.

Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Northern Ireland director Mark Langhammer said teaching was an emotionally draining profession.

"Across the UK the average teaching lifespan is less than seven years," he said.

"ATL's experience is that many teachers approaching 50 would like to reduce their workload.

"Significant educational change and a myriad of government initiatives takes its toll.

"Workload is the major driver for those seeking to leave the profession. Other initiatives contribute, such as the revised curriculum, requiring a more active pedagogy."

Unions have also been critical of changes to pensions.

Premature retirement compensation, offered each year to those who take voluntary redundancy, is being cut.

It is expected that the loss of this incentive - which can add seven years to pensions - will encourage more teachers in their fifties to continue working.

"The precipitate end of 'added years' compensation will stem the flow from the profession but there is a real need to find agreement on a proper winding-down scheme for longer-serving teachers," Mr Langhammer said.



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