More baby boomers stay on teaching
Staying in class: Older teachers put of retirement. Picture: Supplied

The number of State schoolteachers working past the traditional retirement age has surged 71 per cent in four years, forcing teaching graduates to compete for a dwindling pool of vacancies.

Figures from the WA Education Department show the number of teachers working past 65 has grown from 469 in 2010 to 803 this month.

The surge has helped boost the overall number of teachers aged 55 and over 25 per cent to 6540 during the same period.

The group now makes up almost a third of the State's 20,600 public teachers.

It is a demographic trend with pros and cons.

STILL TEACHING AT 81

Education experts say older authority figures foster respect for elders but the widening age gap between teachers and tech-savvy pupils presents challenges as the use of technology in classrooms increases.

But there is consensus that the more teachers decide to put off retirement, largely because of tightening personal finances after the global financial crisis, the fewer opportunities there will be for graduates.

University of WA dean of education Helen Wildy said the rate of retirement among teachers had slowed since the GFC "and is getting slower".

"It means there is not as many opportunities for (graduate) teachers but there will be a time when this baby boomer generation will retire en masse, creating a big demand then for teachers to replace them," she said.

Professor Wildy said older teachers brought a wealth of knowledge and experience into the classroom and it was healthy for students to be taught by adults of all age groups.

WA State School Teachers Union president Pat Byrne said the Federal Government's plans to increase the retirement age to 70 meant the trend would continue.

"Most teaching is not dependent on physical health, it's not construction work," she said. "A good healthy person is able to teach well past their 60s."

Department workforce executive director Cliff Gillam said until recently most teachers had retired by age 62 but the GFC and the attractiveness of increased wages had lengthened careers.

"The department encourages teachers to stay in the workforce so students can benefit from the skills and experience of older teachers," he said.

The West Australian

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