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Minister's five pledges to you

Our population is changing. Primary schools already have fewer children on their rolls. At the same time we live longer and are paid our pensions longer. With fewer working people and more pensioners, the government has to look seriously at how it funds its employees' pensions, including for teachers and lecturers. Changes must be introduced gradually, particularly those relating to the age teachers can access their full pension. I can give all serving teachers five clear guarantees:

* Serving teachers who are aged 50 and over will not be affected by changes to the existing pension arrangement.

* Pension benefits earned before the new arrangements start will not be affected. Any changes made will not affect pension benefits already earned from past service.

* Teachers will still be able to retire at, before, or after 60 as they do now. At retirement, pension and lump sum benefits will take account of the number of years of service the teacher has worked before and after the changes.

* I plan to consult fully on the changes with teachers, their union representatives and employers.

* The review will also examine what other benefits and flexibilities can be introduced to the pension scheme.

It is likely that new entrants after the changes come in, probably in 2006, will join a scheme with a normal pension age of 65. But there will be no immediate effect for existing teachers. The higher pension age for their future service will start later.

All public-sector pensions will have to change - and final-salary schemes are becoming rarer for new private-sector employees. So the Teachers'

Pension Scheme will still be an attractive feature of the overall remuneration package when it comes to recruitment.

The review comes as teacher salaries are rising rapidly and the workload agreement will cut hours worked. Recruitment to teacher training has risen for three years running and the number of teachers working in maintained schools in England is the highest since 1982. Change is needed to ensure teachers keep a quality scheme. But we are making no snap decisions. This is a chance to modernise the TPS in a way teachers will value. I believe we can make the changes flexibly and creatively, commanding the confidence of existing and future teachers alike.

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