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Culture of Eighties is to blame

Diana Sharpe, one of the few headteachers to pursue a pensions compensation claim, has no doubt who is to blame for her predicament. "I feel more angry with the Government than anyone else. They were encouraging people to take care of themselves - it was the culture of the late 1980s - and now it has become obvious that personal pensions weren't in our best interests at all."

Diana, the head of Wisbech St Mary School, Cambridgeshire, opted out of the Teachers' Superannuation Scheme in 1988. "As I didn't go into teaching until the age of 24 I had some gaps in my pension entitlement that I wanted to fill. A financial adviser told me that it would be better to make up the shortfall by taking out a personal pension with General Portfolio (now Gan Insurance) than arranging a top-up. Five years later, however, when he told me that I hadn't been paying in enough and that I should increase my contributions from Pounds 130 to Pounds 300 a month, I began to get concerned."

It was then that she turned to the National Association of Head Teachers for help - the union is assisting nine other heads who believe they were mis-sold pensions - and was advised to rejoin the TSS without delay. This she has done, but it is estimated that it will cost Pounds 27,794.28 to restore her pension entitlement to what it would have been had she never opted out.

"I was horrified when that figure was quoted," she said. "I paid over my money in good faith and now I could lose a lot. The sad thing is that if you have an experience like this you end up with a lack of trust in anyone you seek advice from."

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