Exclusive: Skint young teachers risk retirements as pension opt-outs climb by a fifth

Unions blame student debt, higher teacher pension contributions and low pay for 19 per cent rise in drop outs

Eleanor Busby

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The number of teachers opting out of the profession’s pension scheme has increased by a fifth in a year, figures seen by TES reveal.

Experts are warning that a growing band of young staff are jeopardising their financial futures by missing out on thousands of pounds of employer contributions to their retirement funds.

The number of teachers who deserted the scheme between April and June this year increased by 19 per cent compared with the same period in 2015, the latest opt-out statistics show.

And more than half of the teachers who quit the scheme between April and June 2016 were 34 or younger. Unions say that higher levels of student debt, steeper teacher pension contributions and low pay are driving these younger teachers to opt out.

Usman Gbajabiamila, pensions policy adviser at the ATL teaching union, said: “The concern is that the majority are young teachers. Once they opt out, they very rarely come back on again. We want young teachers to opt in as it’s a pay-as-you-go scheme.”

In total, there were 1,717 opt-outs from April to June this year, compared with 1,442 during the same period last year. And in July, the level of non-contributors reached its highest point since September 2010, with more than 700 leaving the scheme, according to TPS data shared with unions.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “If there are people opting out, then there is less money going into the Treasury to do it. The risk is that they may look for further adjustments of contributions from employees or employers.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The number of people opting out of the Teacher Pension Scheme represents less than 1 per cent of the total number signed up.

“We are confident in the number of teachers that are actively enrolled in our teachers’ pension scheme, the figures of which we monitor closely.”

This is an edited article from the 09 December edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Eleanor Busby

Eleanor Busby is a reporter at TES 

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