Craig Duncan, acting general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said: "There's going to be a lot of disappointed people. It has got to the stage when many people looked forward to the age of 55 when they could retire. There are also a number of teachers who are over fifty and recognise that their employer would not make them an offer of early retirement but who will ask 'will you let me go anyway?"' Scottish teachers taking their leave early constituted 71 per cent of all retirements last year, a figure that has increased by 48 per cent over the past 10 years. Mr Duncan was therefore not surprised that the Scottish Office Pensions Agency had put forward the proposals.
But the unions believe that there is actuarial evidence that adding an extra five years on to a teacher's working life will have an adverse effect on their health in retirement. Both Mr Duncan and Ken Wimbor, assistant secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, have accused the Pensions Agency of appearing to be more concerned about the cost of teachers' pensions than the stress that they are under.
George Gardner, Glasgow's deputy director of education, says that the changes will mean that it will become harder to offer promotion to younger staff or introduce "new blood" into the profession, a worrying development when some 50 per cent of the city's 6,000 teachers are aged between 40 and 50.
He also argues that if there is a surplus or shortage of teachers in one subject he cannot use early retirement to adjust the numbers. Authorities would also be prevented from recruiting gradually in order to avoid the effects of the large number of teachers retiring simultaneously at the turn of the century.