Fears over Shephard's pension changes

Teachers in their fifties who are made redundant may have to wait until 60 before getting their pensions - missing out on early retirement deals that have previously been available. At worst, because of the new Government rules on pensions, they could end up with just statutory redundancy payments - the maximum being Pounds 6,300 for more than 20 years' service.

Up to now local education authorities have tended to agree joint early-retirementredundancy packages because pensions for teachers retiring early have cost them nothing. But under new rules announced last week by Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, LEAs will be responsible for part of the cost of early retirement deals from September. With many facing severe budget difficulties, they are expected to scrutinise every case.

The Department for Education and Employment has told them to consider three options on pensions for those made redundant between 50 and 60: redundancy compensation without premature retirement, redundancy compensation with premature retirement or an enhanced compensation for termination without premature retirement.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which took the Government to court over one aspect of the proposed pension changes, fears teachers could end up with just statutory redundancy payments. Sue Johnson, its head of pensions, said: "Staff could be thrown on to the scrapheap in their fifties with little chance of finding another job and no real finance to cushion them."

The Local Government Management Board said LEAs would still want to put together packages for teachers, but added: "Councils will have to consider whether severance or early retirement would be more advantageous . . . they will have to exercise some control to make sure they don't run out of money. "

David Whitbread, head of education at the Local Government Association, expected LEAs to agree early retirement deals in genuine cases of redundancy, but added: "They will have to be more critical."

The effect of last week's decision to postpone the clampdown on early retirement deals until after the election is still unclear. The LGA estimates "a lot" of teachers will defer their decision to go from March 31 to the end of August in line with the delay announced by Mrs Shephard.

Leader, page 18

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