Q I graduated with my PGCE in history last summer. Last term, I was unable to find a teaching post and worked in a local museum. I have now found a part-time maternity cover post that lasts until the summer. I am confused about the arrangements for pensions and have heard varying stories. Where do I stand?

A While salary issues are relatively straightforward, questions concerning pensions are usually more complex to deal with in a short answer.

Much can depend upon your own circumstances. For this reason, it is always best to contact your professional association for detailed advice. However, it is worth noting that reforms to the Teachers' Pension Scheme were introduced on January 1. Two of the key changes will affect you. One is that part-time employment is now pensionable without you having to make an election. This only applies to anyone who starts after January 1, so those already in part-time work will still have to make an election if they want to be included in the pension scheme. However, the rule change affects them if they move to another employer. That won't bother you. But, if you found a full-time job, any additional part-time service, such as another contract for an extended day, would not be pensionable. The big change that will affect you, is that your pension will not normally be payable before a retirement age of 65 as you started work after January 1. Those on your PGCE course who started work last September can still retire at 60.

However, their pension will be calculated as 180th of their average salary, whereas yours will be calculated on 160th of the appropriate average salary. There is another change as well. Your colleagues retiring at 60 will still automatically receive a lump sum alongside their pension: you will only do so if you commute a part of your pension. This brings the Teachers' scheme into line with many other pension schemes. There are some other changes, including raising the age for the payments of benefits where a teacher is offered redundancy from 50 to 55. This will impact on many older teachers faced with falling rolls. The definition of those eligible for ill-health pensions has also been tightened but, to compensate, the death in service grant has risen to three times the relevant average salary

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University.

To ask him a question, email him at

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