Forced out: The experienced teachers losing their livelihoods as schools cut costs

Hundreds of teachers have seen experienced colleagues forced out to make room for cheaper workers, new data has revealed, as a union acknowledged older staff were put under “intense pressure” to leave their jobs.

A survey by Teacher Tapp of 3,568 school staff found that 10 per cent were “confident” that teachers on the upper pay scale at their school had been encouraged to leave or had been made redundant to clear space for cheaper staff.

It’s just this ridiculous situation where the older you seem to get in teaching, the less they value your experience

A further 13 per cent said they felt experienced teachers “might have been” pushed out.

Earlier this month Schools Week revealed an academy trust was told by a government cost-cutting adviser to “replace a retiring teacher on UPS3 (upper pay scale 3) with a member of support staff on a term-time only contract”.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT union, warned of older teachers “being disproportionately placed on capability procedures, denied access to professional development, subject to excessive observation and scrutiny, having pay awards and pay progression withheld and put under intense pressure to leave their job”.

Meanwhile, current and former teachers have told Schools Week of how they were forced out, bullied or denied opportunities to progress by schools desperate to keep costs down.

One teacher, who did not want to be named, told Schools Week that she and two others on the upper pay scale were forced out by the headteacher of her previous school and replaced by teaching assistants and newly qualified teachers (NQTs).

“[The headteacher] got rid of us to save £150,000. He put a teaching assistant in to replace me, and replaced the other two staff with NQTs. He said he was protecting those on the main pay scale and leadership pay scale, and so it was us three UPS teachers who were costing him too much.”

Susan Cavanagh, a former supply teacher from Hull who trained as a mature student, said she had struggled to get full-time jobs or hold down supply roles because she was paid on the main pay scale.

“It’s just this ridiculous situation where the older you seem to get in teaching, the less they value your experience,” she said. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

The Employment Rights Act 1996 sets out an obligation on the employer to show that the reason for dismissal is either conduct, capacity, redundancy or “some other substantial reason of a kind such as to justify dismissal”.

Chris Billington, a partner in the education team at Wrigleys Solicitors, previously told Schools Week that a restructure based on financial grounds would fall under the “other” category.

“It’s very easy to get a cheaper teacher in, but it may well have an impact on the quality of education.”

The Teacher Tapp survey comes as the Department for Education prepares to report for the first time on the specific reasons teachers leave the profession.

Until now, the government has looked only at the “destination” of departing teachers. But a new “reason for leaving” question was added to the school workforce census last year. The first data based on the new questions will be published in early June.

Schools will be able to record redundancy, either voluntary or compulsory, leaving for another teaching post, retirement or dismissal. But they will also be able to list “other” as a reason.

Jack Worth, from the National Foundation for Educational Research, said the destination measure “was always quite unreliable, so I don’t know how reliable this new variable will be”.

“It depends on how well schools fill it in, and they have no real incentive to make sure it’s accurate.”

Statistics from 2016 show the percentage of teachers aged between 50 and 60 had fallen from 21.7 per cent in 2010, to 15.6 per cent.

However, the number taking retirement throughout the 2015-16 financial year was lower than previous years.

Meanwhile, the number of teachers under 30 rose to nearly a quarter of the workforce, compared with 23 per cent in 2010.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “No teacher should face bullying or ill-treatment in the workplace and schools have a duty to protect their staff. It is important that schools promote a diverse workforce including age and experience.

“We are committed to supporting teachers of all ages – we established the Working Longer Review Group which has set out recommendations for school leaders, employers and government on how to support teachers working potentially into their sixties or even beyond that.”

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  1. Mark Watson

    Alternative headlines:

    “Hundreds of young teachers given an opportunity to start their career”

    “Over two thirds of respondents don’t think this has happened at their school”

    And can we PLEASE stop treating TeacherTapp as a valid producer of reliable surveys. Any survey which relies on people self-selecting whether they reply or not is guaranteed to have a higher proportion of respondents who feel passionately about the subject, i.e. have been directly affected by it. I would suggest that 100% of teachers who saw this ‘survey’ and had a colleague of friend who they thought had been ‘forced out’ would respond, whereas the response rate for other people would be lower. This is why reputable market research organisation (YouGov, Ipsos etc.) choose the respondents themselves, trying to select a valid cross-section.

    Nothing against TeacherTapp, which provides interesting opinions and soundbites which can, and often should, be a jumping off point for a properly researched and/or surveyed issue.

  2. Anne Brown

    Wouldn’t it be better to ask the teachers themselves, perhaps via their pension scheme? Maybe I’m a horrible cynic, but it strikes me that if a school’s happy to do this to experienced teachers then it may also not have a problem about creatively presenting the data to cover up what they’re doing.

  3. Sam Smith

    I can’t get a full time job in my school following children as, in my Headteacher’s words “I’m too expensive”. Told by the academy to cut costs, two of my full time (UPS) colleagues have been asked to leave quietly (or capability process). It’s such a scam- funding training, employing NQT’s then kicking out at 40.
    I wouldn’t recommend it.