‘Female teachers targeted when they reach 50’

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Schools are targeting older, menopausal, women teachers in an attempt to force them out of their jobs rather than supporting them, a union has suggested.

Members of the National Union of Teachers (NUT) are warning that older female school staff, who are likely to be dealing with symptoms of the menopause, are being discriminated against, putting their health, living standards and pensions at risk.

A resolution to be debated at its Easter conference in Brighton says schools have a responsibility to take into account the issues women going through the menopause may face and give workers “support and assistance”. It says: “Conference is concerned there is an increasing trend in schools of targeting teachers who are over 50 with a view to end their employment early.”

Sickness leave and “capability procedures”, which examine whether a teacher is competent, are being used against older workers to get them to end their contracts early, the resolution claims. It adds that the union is dealing with an increasing number of cases involving older teachers, particularly women.

The union suggested that women going through the menopause can be suffering with symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, sweating and hot flushes and that high workplace temperatures, lack of rest and toilet facilities or a lack of access to cold drinking water can make these worse.

The motion states: “Conference believes that employers have a responsibility to take into account the difficulties that women may experience during the menopause and that female workers should be able to expect support and assistance during what is, for many, a very difficult time.”

NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney said the union had heard “anecdotally” that more teachers over the age of 50 are being subjected to capability procedures than their younger colleagues.

The union’s general secretary, Christine Blower, said: “We often find that the approach in schools now is that somehow or other, if you’ve been doing it for a long time, you must be stale and not quite the ticket that you would get with a younger teacher.

“We reject that. We think it’s important you have a balance in the profession of youth and age. And that’s as true for men as it is for women.”

Separately, Department for Education figures show that in some subjects, including key disciplines such as maths and English, thousands of pupils are taught by teachers with no higher than an A-level qualification in the field.

More than one in five secondary school maths teachers - nearly 7,500 in total (22.4 per cent) - do not have a relevant degree-level qualification, along with a similar proportion (20.1 per cent, just over 7,500) in English.

New DfE data also shows that almost 1,000 headteachers, deputies and assistant heads working in England’s state schools are earning £100,000 or more.