Firstly, it is clearly ageist and assumes that once teachers reach 55 years they will be prone to be dead wood, dispensable dinosaurs.
Some of the best teachers I encountered in 45 years in the classroom were over 60.
In my case, I cringe when I reflect on my early years in the classroom.
Like most graduates I observed over the years, I too believed I was God’s gift to teaching.
Nothing beats experience and veteran teachers should be an invaluable resource in our schools.
Imagine the howls of protest if the Department culled female staff who are prone to use up their annual sick leave staying home to care for their sick children?
Dedication and enthusiasm have little to do with age. Observe in most areas of civic life the age of our leaders. Most of our Prime Ministers have been the age that the South Australian Education Department regards as likely dead wood.
The alleged sin of these veteran teachers was that they were ‘not up to date with their professional development requirements’.
Some of the worst classroom practitioners I observed were anally retentive when it came to record keeping, attendance at seminars and ticking PD boxes.
Surely the only criterion that matters is whether a teacher is effective in the classroom?
Efficacious PD programs may or may not achieve this end. The vast majority of PD sessions I attended over the years were irrelevant, boring and futile.
The most effective PD is on-going, teacher-centre and peer-based.
Time-deprived teachers resent wasting their time being forced to attend PD seminars which do not serve their immediate needs.
Maybe PD program providers need to take a good look at themselves if some many teachers see little benefit in attending!
Is a veteran teacher any less effective because she can’t do tricks on an electronic whiteboard?
In times when teachers have to dig into their own pockets to buy stationery for their students how absurd is it to waste $9 million to cull older teachers, many of whom will find jobs in private schools and other educational enterprises.
How many private companies are able to waste millions of dollars making older members of staff redundant?
If the South Australian Education Department has incontrovertible evidence that hundreds of teachers are burnt out and ineffective in the classroom, then embarrassing questions need to be asked as to why schools are so morale-sapping and stressful.
Are demands on teachers so heavy that the attrition rate is such that the most experienced teachers have basically had enough.
Is classroom management so difficult, have students become too difficult to control, are teachers provided with so little support that teaching can no longer be considered a life time career?
Are teachers overburdened with administrivia, report-writing and hoops to jump through that many older teachers inevitable become jaded and cynical?
Rather than waste millions of tax payer dollars on unnecessary redundancies, The South Australian Education Department could better spend the money of finding ways to keeping rather than jettisoning older members of staff.
With the retirement age increasing it is essential that the system encourages older teachers to stay in the classroom and be available to mentor the next generation of teachers.
One school I taught at refused to employ part-time teachers which ruled out the option of allowing older teacher a less stressful working week.
Job sharing and more flexible working arrangements may encourage older teachers to maintain their energy levels and enthusiasm.
The ignored bottom line is that there must be an effective way to remove incompetent and ineffective teachers from the profession, regardless of their age or experience.
Removing time- servers or unsuitable teachers is good practice but the current system is not geared to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Because it is so difficult to remove poor teachers, education departments, like in South Australia, initiate hare-brained schemes which actually reward incompetence and cull hundreds of years of critical experience from the system.