Schools minister Lord Agnew has suggested that state-school teachers are ungrateful about changes to their pensions that have left schools worrying about their funding.
Speaking to a conference of independent-school leaders today, Lord Agnew said: “The state-school teachers, they don’t recognise that they’re getting a 42 per cent increase in pensions contributions.
“They don’t say, ‘How wonderful – the state is really looking after us’.”
But a union leader has pointed out that teachers will not actually receive any extra money and accused the minister of putting his foot in his mouth.
Lord Agnew was also openly critical of his own government's decision over the Teachers' Pension Scheme as it applies to independent schools, describing the change as "appalling".
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Schools have been told that they must increase contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme by 43 per cent from this year.
The government has said that it will help maintained schools and academies cover the additional cost, although there are serious concerns about who will foot the bill in later years.
“No one’s going to thank us,” Lord Agnew said today. “No one realises the benefit that people in the scheme are getting.”
Lord Agnew was speaking to independent-school leaders at a one-day education conference, held at Brighton College.
His remarks about the teachers’ pensions came in response to a question asked by a private-school headteacher about the cost to her sector of the pension increase. “We’re feeling under attack,” she said. “We’re feeling vulnerable.”
Lord Agnew responded by saying that independent heads needed to “weaponise” the Independent Schools Council to take up that argument on their behalf.
“It’s not a DfE issue,” he said. “They need to take it to the government and the Bank of England.
“There’s nobody in the DfE cooking up this idea that we want to wallop the independent schools with a 42 per cent increase in pensions contributions. That’s appalling.”
He added: “I’m appalled that we’re going to have to divert some £700 million a year to meet an actuarial requirement, and no one’s going to thank us. No one realises the benefit that people in the scheme are getting.”
But Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU teachers’ union, pointed out that teachers will not receive any of this additional contribution to their pensions.
“He really has got a unique ability to put his foot in his mouth, doesn’t he?” she said of Lord Agnew.
“Teachers won’t see any cash increase in what they receive, in terms of their pensions. Really, he needs to think before he speaks.”