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
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
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.