Proof of the retirement boom is beginning to appear in official statistics. During 2008-09, 19,190 new pensions were awarded to former teachers in local-authority maintained schools across England who opted for retirement. These included 7,880 teachers taking premature retirement before their normal retirement age, and 610 awarded pensions on ill-health grounds. The number of age-related retirements was 10,700.
The total number of pensioners has been rising year on year, with nearly an extra 100,000 enjoying the benefits of retirement than a decade ago. There has been a similar increase in the average size of pensions, from #163;6,600 in 1998-99 to #163;11,870 in 2008-09, reflecting both the increase in teachers' pay during the decade and the fact that many more women are retiring after longer careers than their older counterparts, following the changes in employment legislation of the past 30 years.
But, women still receive smaller pensions on average than their male colleagues, #163;10,290 in 2008-09 compared with #163;15,570 for men. Interestingly, those taking premature retirement had the highest average awards, some #163;3,000 more than the average pension for all retirees. The apparent losers have been those who retire on ill-health grounds whose average pension is now lower than it was in 2003-04. In practice, this may be because the tightening of the rules has meant few teachers are eligible for this type of retirement, and many may be early in their careers when tragedy forces them to quit the profession.
At the present rate of progress, and even with the increase in retirement age to 65 for new teachers, there will be more teacher pensioners than serving teachers by the middle of the next decade, around 2015
John Howson is a director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.