Select Committee on Education and Employment Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from NASUWT

  NASUWT welcomes the inquiry into age discrimination in employment and the opportunity to submit evidence.

  In the forward to the Government's "Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment" (DfEE 1999), Andrew Smith, Minister for Employment states, "To base employment decisions on pre-conceived ideas about age, rather than on skills and abilities, is to waste the talents of a large part of the population. In 10 years' time more than a quarter of the workforce will be aged over 50".

  NASUWT endorses these sentiments.

  In many areas of employment stereotypical attitudes abound. Older workers are considered to be inflexible, unreliable, lack creativity and incapable of adapting to new technology. Teaching is no exception.


  As a result of handling casework on behalf of members, NASUWT has identified a number of areas of concern:

    —  as older teachers command a higher salary as a result of their experience, some heads and governing bodies are unwilling to employ them on financial grounds. These can lead to difficulties in obtaining new posts or returning to teaching after a career break. The problem developed as a direct result of the introduction of local management of schools and the delegation of budgets. Appointments have often been made not on the grounds of experience, skill and ability but on cost considerations. Mature entrants to teaching fair little better than those already in post. Successive Governments extolled the virtues of teachers gaining experience in other fields of employment prior to training to teach. Such experience was considered a valuable asset. However, mature entrants are often disappointed to find that securing employment is difficult because younger recruits can be employed more cheaply;

    —  job adverts often request "young", "dynamic", "enthusiastic" applicants but never "old and wise";

    —  when problems arise in schools which result in decisions to reduce staffing, teachers of 50 plus often feel under considerable pressure from younger colleagues to consider redundancy/early retirement. This is because they are seen to be able to access an alternative source of income ie their pension and, in addition, because they are more costly to retain than colleagues with less years of service;

    —  there are indications that older teachers are less likely to have received recent and relevant training;

    —  there is a belief in education that promotion, particularly to headship, must be achieved at the latest by the age of 45. This works actively against women who may have taken career breaks;

    —  the majority of the Government's recruitment incentives, such as "golden hellos" and fast track, are marketed to appeal to young entrants.


  NASUWT believes that there are considerable benefits to be achieved by ensuring that an age balance is maintained in the teaching force. Older teachers provide role models in the workplace, not only for their younger colleagues, but also for pupils. Their presence can have a positive effect on the attitudes pupils will carry with them into employment. In addition, the experience of older teachers can be extremely valuable in training and supporting colleagues, particularly students on initial teacher training and those newly qualified.


  NASUWT welcomed the introduction of the "Code of Practice on Age Diversity in Employment" as it was a formal recognition that age discrimination is unacceptable. However, the Association shares the disappointment of the TUC that ageism has not been made unlawful.

  NASUWT has no indication that the introduction of the Code has had any impact in schools or the education service.

  The Association believes that legislation should be introduced to ensure:

    —  recruitment is on the basis of the skills and abilities needed to fulfil the commitments of the post;

    —  promotion is based on ability, skill and demonstrated potential;

    —  equal access to training opportunities;

    —  a balanced workforce is maintained.

  Such legislation would need to be underpinned by the training of heads and governors in the equal opportunities dimension of recruitment, selection and appointment procedures.

  The following are examples of ageist practices, which should be prohibited:

    —  the requirement on application forms for candidates to state their age;

    —  medical references being sought by potential employers for older applicants only;

    —  job adverts which state explicitly "young and enthusiastic" teachers required or similar ageist statements.

  In promoting this approach NASUWT is not seeking to campaign for older teachers in preference to the young but to establish a level playing field on which all are considered on their merits, skills and abilities.


February 2001

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