Labour `to recruit over-50s'

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The Independent Online
Retired people would be drafted into the classroom and experienced teachers given sabbaticals under a Labour government, the party's education spokesman said yesterday.

But plans announced by David Blunkett for teacher training for the over- 50s brought a lukewarm reaction from the profession. Union leaders said the job, a challenging one even for a 25-year-old, could prove too much for an older person.

Mr Blunkett told conference that the party would increase links between schools and industry. People with a lifetime's experience in another profession might have a lot to offer to schools, he said. Courses already being run by the Open University could be adapted to train the new recruits.

The teaching profession, which at present has 20,000 new recruits to training courses each year, needs by 2000 to increase the figure to 30,000. Mr Blunkett said that teachers with between 10 and 15 years' service could be given sabbaticals of between one term and a year in order to refresh their skills.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, welcomed Mr Blunkett's proposals for sabbaticals but was less enthusiastic about plans for older people in the classroom.

"Youngsters today are very different from what they were like 20 or 30 years ago. They are far more indisciplined and less respectful of authority. To be a good teacher these days you have to have a lot of vigour to be able to survive," he said.

James Paice, a junior education minister, said last night that the scheme would prove prohibitively expensive and would entitle 240,000 teachers every year to a year off.

But a spokesman for Mr Blunkett rejected the government figures, saying the scheme would need no new money and would be funded from existing grants and business sponsorship.