Classrooms are set to lose large numbers of senior teaching staff as the baby boomer generation nears retirement. As these older, and often more senior, workers reach retirement age and exit the workforce altogether, a mass departure of this generation will usher in a new skills shortage. 

Despite this threat, our research reveals there is a societal pressure for older employees to leave the workforce at state pension age – and teachers feel this tension more acutely than average. Nearly four-fifths (79%) of teachers report feeling this pressure, compared to 75% of typical workers. The implications of this perception could be severe – with nearly a third (32%) of teachers saying they plan to retire early as a result.

Retaining older Teachers as mentors

Our research also looked at what helps persuade workers to stay in the workforce for longer. In order to improve the retention of older teachers in the education workforce, schools need to provide better support for older staff through increasing the availability of flexible working or job-shares and implementing phased retirement programmes. Crucially, these initiatives need to be better publicised to help change the perception of older education workers.

Shaking up societal attitudes to retirement also has a role to play. Research from academic Christopher Barrington-Leigh shows that people who stay working past 55, and those who have chosen to delay retirement to stay longer in the workforce, report rising job satisfaction levels.

Education workers differed from the UK norm in terms of what factors would persuade them to stay in teaching longer than planned. The largest proportion of teachers (45%) answered that a change of their role to become more of a mentor figure, with the opportunity to pass down their teaching wisdom, would help them stay in the job for longer. This compared to just 38% of workers across all industries, showing teachers value the chance to share their work experience with younger, and more junior colleagues more highly than in other sectors.

The second biggest factor that could persuade teachers to delay their retirement, for 43% of those polled, would be the provision of flexible working arrangements, enabling them to fit their career around other responsibilities in later life, such as caring for a loved one.

We have seen a rise in the number of experienced teachers who quote a change in lifestyle as the main reason for leaving a permanent position in favour of supply teaching, which can assist in the search for more choice and greater flexibility.

Search here for our recent supply teacher roles here.

Lifestyles and responsibilities also change as people get older, and if schools can be more sensitive to this, they may be able to hold onto senior teaching staff for longer. Not all teachers will want to leave the profession at state pension age, and there is certainly plenty of research to show that staying in the workforce keeps the older generation in better physical and mental health. Therefore, retraining schemes are vital to make sure that older teachers still feel confident of the latest teaching methods, curriculum changes and technologies used in the classroom – to prevent them from bowing out earlier then they would want to.