Page last updated at 05:48 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 06:48 UK

Teachers in Wales 'getting younger,' says GTCW

Classroom teacher
Teacher ages are falling, but some older teachers complain of ageism

The average age of teachers in Wales is falling as large numbers of long-serving staff reach retirement age, a teaching organisation has found.

General Teaching Council for Wales figures show the number of registered teachers under 45 has increased from 48% to 57% in eight years.

Head teachers are also getting younger, with those in their 50s dropping from 66% in 2006 to 58% this year.

The GTCW said it was "probably the best trained generation of teachers ever".

The number of people qualifying at a younger age is rising.

Nearly 56% of newly-qualified teachers are under 25 years of age, compared to only 41% four years ago.

However, a survey by the NASUWT teaching union earlier this month suggested one-in-five older teachers had faced discrimination because of their age.

Marginalised teachers

Speaking at the union's annual conference, general secretary Chris Keates said the older teachers felt they were being marginalised, rather than having their experience valued.

You should have a good spread of experience because it helps with the growth of the school and teachers can learn off each other
David Harris, head teacher, aged 41

Some expressed fears they were seen as being too expensive by head teachers, and had been made to feel "less capable" than younger colleagues.

Gary Brace, chief executive of GTCW, said: "The age profile of the profession is very significant as it gives us valuable indicators about the training and development resources we need for teachers who are at various different stages in their careers.

"While the experience of older teachers who are retiring is very valuable, we are nevertheless very optimistic about the growth in the proportion of teachers who are in the middle of their careers.

"This is probably the best trained and prepared generation of teachers we have ever had.

"Most are also highly IT literate and therefore able to optimise the use of technology in the classroom."

Teaching vocation

Mr Brace added head teachers in recent years had undertaken the National Professional Qualification in Headship (NPQH), which is now compulsory for new heads.

David Harris, aged 41, head teacher at Tredegarville Church in Wales Primary School in Cardiff, said he believed teaching was now a vocation.

He said: "I think the process in becoming a teacher is now extremely rigorous and selective - I think the universities are very very aware of what is required.

"But you have got excellent people who have worked a long time in the teaching profession."

Mr Harris said he was aware of colleagues at the older end of the spectrum who had retired early - some due to "many different changes in teaching in a relatively short amount of time".

On the age profile of teachers, he added: "I think it matters within the context of the individual school.

"You should have a good spread of experience because it helps with the growth of the school and teachers can learn off each other."

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