• Classrooms set to loose large swathes of senior talent and teaching experience as baby boomer generation nears retirement
  • Four-fifths of teachers feel under pressure to leave teaching at state pension age
  • Almost a third (32%) of teachers plan to retire early as a result
  • Mentoring the main motivation to keep senior teachers in the schools for longer, but flexible working, phased retirement and retaining schemes can all play a part


Classrooms are facing a mass exodus of senior teaching staff as the baby boomer generation nears retirement, coupled with societal pressure to leave the workforce at state pension age, according to new research from specialist recruiter Randstad Education.


A recent report by Ros Altmann, the Pensions Minister, outlines that by 2022 the number of people in the workforce aged 50 to state pension age will have risen by 3.7 million to 13.8 million and the number aged 16-49 will have reduced by 700,000.[1] As these older, and often more senior, workers reach retirement age and exit the workforce en masse, the exodus of this generation will usher in a new skills shortage.


Despite this threat, research from Randstad Education reveals there is a pervasive 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. In addition, 36% of employees in the education sector say this pressure is ‘significant’, while only 15% of teachers say they don’t feel this pressure.


The implications of this perception could be severe – with nearly a third (32%) of teachers saying they plan to retire early as a result. Believing that “they won’t be wanted in the workforce when older” is the key motivation behind this accelerated retirement plans, listed by 85% of education workers who intend to retire early.  The remaining 15% expect to retire early because they are worried about age discrimination in schools.


Jenny Rollinson, managing director of Randstad Education, comments:  “We have a ticking talent timebomb in our hands, and the flight of the baby-boomer generation from the teaching workforce could leave a gaping skills shortage in our midst.  There’s already quite a war for talent as it is, and this will make it even harder to find the right people for the right jobs.  Schools need to hold onto the age and experience in their classrooms for as long as they can, as replacing senior teaching staff after they retire can be difficult.”




Overall, it is older workers who feel most strongly that they are being pushed from the workforce. Four in ten employees (42%) who started working before 1975 said they would retire early because they feel “like they won’t be wanted in the workforce when older” – a much more significant proportion than any other age group. Only 27% of workers who joined the workforce between 1975 and 1984 reported the same feelings, 28% between 1985 and 1994, 26% between 1995 and 2004 and just 26% after 2005.


Joined workforce Percentage of respondents
1974 and earlier 41.6%
1975 – 1984 27.0%
1985 – 1994 27.9%
1995 – 2004 26.1%
2005 or later 26.1%






Randstad’s 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.[2]


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.


The availability of phased retirement to help smooth the transition from working to full retirement was also a popular option, with 38% of teachers saying this would help keep them in schools for longer. With regular changes to the curriculum and prescribed thinking on teaching strategies, as well as the more prominent role of IT in classrooms, retraining schemes were cited by 27% of teachers, while a quarter (25%) answered that a change in attitude within the education sector to become more accepting of older teachers would have a positive impact.




Jenny Rollinson concludes: “Teaching is a vocation, and schools clearly need to appeal to this sense of purpose and passion for the job, and recognise that older education workers may be looking for a slight change in their role and position as they start thinking about retirement. Mentoring can help fight the talent exodus on two fronts – firstly keeping senior teachers professionally fulfilled and engaged for an extra few years of employment, and also ensuring that their wisdom and experience is passed down to the new generation of NQTs. 


“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. Healthcare demands for both workers and their loved ones can become harder to negotiate, but flexible working arrangements or phased retirement can help make employment possible 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 that they would want to.


“Senior teachers looking to move schools should take into account their future employer’s attitude to supporting them in the run-up to retirement. The best schools will already be proactively planning for this demographic shift, and preparing to accommodate an ageing workforce and retain their best staff as armour against the talent exodus.”



[1] A New Vision for Older Workers: Retain, Retrain, Recruit – March 2015

[2] The Quebec convergence and Canadian life satisfaction 1985-2008 – 2011