Retirement age increase is 'unfair'

New teachers struggling to find a job could discover that they are forced to work until they are 65, under new changes to the pension regulations.

A recent deal between the Government and teaching unions will allow existing teachers to retire at 60. But those who begin their first permanent job after September 1, 2006 will see their retirement age raised to 65.

Gerald Imison, deputy general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, believes that this will affect new teachers who are struggling to find permanent work. He said those who are forced into supply teaching until September 2006 will lose out, because usually it is not pensionable.

"We have made a significant achievement for existing members of the profession, but we do not want that to come at the expense of their future colleagues," he said.

A study by academics at Buckingham university's centre for education and employment research, found that two-thirds of those who qualified as primary teachers last year were still struggling to find permanent work this March.

Jo Walker, 26, finished a three-year degree in primary education this summer. But more than 10 job applications in Lincolnshire have resulted in just one interview. Some of her coursemates are in the same boat.

The termly cycle of job vacancies, she says, makes it likely that they will still be looking for work in September. "I feel like I'm being punished for something that isn't my fault," she said. "It's unfair. I thought I would find work easily and retire at 60. It's a stressful job, and by then you'll want to retire. Teaching is my first choice, but this is enough to make me think about another career."

New teachers who choose to take time out between completing their training and starting work will also be affected. But John Howson, of Education Data Surveys, does not believe that new teachers will turn away from the profession as a result. "For most 21-year-olds, 65 seems so far away," he said.

"Frankly, 30 seems a long way away. They may be considering whether they're going to get to 60 anyway. They will be more interested in the level of contribution demanded by the Government. Graduates have got to pay back student debt, and are in a tough housing market. The labour market has to recognise that."

Meanwhile, any new teachers beginning their first job within the next two years will also find that their starting salary has only increased by the rate of inflation. The School Teachers' Review Body's annual report, delivered to government ministers this month, has recommended that teachers' salary increases should be limited to the rate of inflation for the next two years: an annual increase of about 2.7 per cent - equivalent to approximately pound;550 for a newly qualified teacher.

By contrast, a survey by NatWest bank showed that graduates' starting salaries increased by an average of 3.6 per cent last year.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads' Association, said:

"It's important that teachers' pay keeps pace with other graduate professions."

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