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Anger, disgust at retirement plans

"Imagine how many teachers will literally die at work," was typical of the responses from thousands of teachers voicing overwhelming opposition to Government plans to increase their pension age from 60 to 65.

"Would you want your child taught by a 65-year-old?" asked another. "I know there are a few great teachers of that age, but most are exhausted by 50."

Teachers spoke of their anger, disgust and utter dismay at the proposal in responses to the Department for Education and Skills' consultation document.

"It is not an office job," said one. "It is very stressful. It is not a job for someone over 60."

The Government wants to raise the pension age for a range of public-sector workers but promised more talks on its plans in the face of union threats of widespread action in the run-up to the election.

The issue was a major source of resentment at the Easter teacher unions'

conferences.

Members of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers defied their leadership and voted for a ballot on strike action if the Government goes ahead with the move.

They instructed the union's executive to ballot for action before next year's conference should negotiations this winter fail. The National Union of Teachers only suspended its plans for a national strike ballot after the Government's climbdown. The DfES consultation document drew 4,247 responses - 2,787 from teachers and the rest from lecturers, unions and employers, with the latter the only group to support the rise.

None of the questions in the consultation document specifically mentioned the pension age increase, a fact which angered some teachers.

But of those offering further comments, two-thirds said the retirement age should be left alone and 34 per cent said their backing for other changes depended on it not being increased.

Asked what they valued most in the current scheme, 80 per cent said it was the fact they retired at 60, 53 per cent that it was a final salary scheme and 49 per cent the security it offered.

There was support for other planned changes to teachers' pensions, such as increasing the proportion of salary they are calculated on and introducing more flexible retirement arrangements - but not if it meant raising the pension age.

And 88 per cent of those responding said they would not be prepared to pay more than the current 6 per cent contribution for the improvements.

RAISING THE PENSION AGE TO 65

* The changes to teachers' pension age would come in from next year for new teachers, and from 2013 for existing staff.

* Pension rights accrued by existing staff through service before 2013 would be protected. But teachers opting to retire at 60 after the change would lose out.

* For example, if a 45-year-old with 20 years' service in 2013, worked for 15 more years and retired at 60, he or she would receive a pension based on 20 years' service with no reduction, plus another 15 years, reduced to take account of its payment before 65.

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