Staff caution on early retirement

Only a handful of teachers in Dumfries and Galloway have expressed interest in the new national "get out early" arrangements due to be implemented next month. Changes to pension regulations finally gained parliamentary approval on July 1.

The authority believes it will be next year before teachers respond more positively to the revised pension rules - once the full McCrone settlement is in their pay packets. A final 4 per cent, taking the total to 23.1 per cent over three years, comes into effect next August.

So far, only 14 teachers in the south-west have said they were interested in either the winding-down scheme or the actuarially-reduced pensions. Unions are cautious about the latter.

Officials in Dumfries and Galloway report a "significant level of interest" in the part-time option for the over-56s under the winding-down scheme, but only after salaries rise further under the national agreement. However, they insist it will be the needs of the service that come first.

"It will be important to ensure that retirals or phased retirals under these two schemes are carefully managed such that there is no danger of an exit of experienced staff without the corresponding influx of suitably qualified teachers to replace them," they warn.

The council has already threatened to withdraw from the new initiative on probationers after failing to secure the number of trainee teachers it expected. Many students leaving teacher training in central belt universities appeared reluctant to move south for one year.

Dumfries and Galloway favours the winding-down option, linked to the probationer scheme, as a means of introducing new blood and freeing up posts. There is also an increasing number of requests for job shares from women trying to balance home and professional commitments who could benefit from the part-time winding down contracts, it points out.

But teachers who eventually opt for it have been told to expect moves to other schools or to semi-permanent cover posts "if this best suits the needs of the service". Staff will have to apply no later than three working months before they want to move to part-time contracts, which ideally should begin at the start of any new session.

The winding-down scheme is open nationally to teachers over the age of 56 who have at least 25 years' service but it will be up to authorities whether they agree to individual requests. Teachers would be expected to work for a minimum of 50 per cent of existing hours on a four-year part-time contract until they are 60. An added attraction is that each year on the scheme counts as one full year for final pension entitlement.

Under the more contentious actuarial initiative, teachers can go earlier at 55 but face reduced final pensions.

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