Leading Article: Older teachers have a place in the classroom

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The Independent Culture
THERE ARE 15,000 unemployed teachers in this country looking for a job, and many of them are finding it difficult because they are too old; schools prefer to hire cheap new graduates at the bottom of the pay scale. By coincidence, 15,000 just happens to be the number alighted on by Chris Woodhead, the chief schools inspector, as his guess at how many teachers are so useless that they ought to be sacked.

Clearly, life is not so simple that all that needs to be done is to swap one group of teachers for the other. But there are two points which David Blunkett ought to note.

One is that it can be well worth paying more for older teachers, and the education secretary ought to offer "top-ups" for the salaries of good people returning to the profession. A long-term way needs to be found to reward good teachers, who will often be older, without giving incentives to schools to hire cheap ones. The second point is that the salary structure for teachers is too rigid; some older teachers might be prepared to work for less than the fixed point on the scale based on their experience, especially if they were offered flexible hours. More experienced teachers can spell, and some of them can even teach. Mr Blunkett should do more to get them back into our classrooms.