69. Will they stand for it?

13th January 2006 at 00:00
The latest changes to teachers' pensions could trigger a fresh recruitment crisis, says Luis Domingues

Teachers could be expected to work until they are 66 by the year 2030 under new pension plans. In the report, published on December 1, Lord Turner recommended that the normal age of retirement for public-sector workers rise to 66 by 2030, and 67 by 2050, which is when someone starting teacher training today could expect to retire. Taking projected rises in longevity rates into account, this age could reach 69.

Last October the Government and the main teaching unions agreed to raise the age of retirement for those entering teaching from 60 to 65. However, Lord Turner's report also called for a more generous state pension on retirement, with higher payments from employers and individuals alike.

This brought concern from the Treasury, which is worried that the higher state pensions will place undue strain on the budget, and may have an adverse effect on existing tax levels.

The Government has stressed that the recommendations in the Turner Report will go through a period of rigorous debate and analysis before any points go forward in a new pensions bill, and that this process may take several months. Therefore any recent agreements still stand and will be honoured for the time being.

This means that the October deal forged between government and the main teaching unions remains the current state of play. Under this arrangement any teacher new to the profession this year will have to work until 65 before being able to retire on a full pension. The compromise of this deal is that teachers already in service may still retire at the age of 60.

The Government had previously stated its aim that all teachers should work until 65. But the unions fought hard to protect retirement ages for teachers already working and, on that point, the Government was forced to concede.

The unions did accept the rationale for reform - that people are generally living longer and so the country can't afford to pay - while at the same time wanting to accommodate those who want to work longer or go part-time to soften the transition into retirement. Yet the implication for new teachers training and graduating this year is that they will have to work until they are 65 before drawing their pension, while those who joined last year and before can retire at 60.

Teachers who start this year will still have the right to choose to retire at 60. If they do, they will have to pay additional contributions while they are working to compensate for taking retirement early.

Nevertheless, for many of those starting out, the whole issue of pension reform simply isn't relevant. Statistics show that new teachers don't believe they will be teaching for more than five years.

Les Garner, a lecturer on the PGCE course at the University of Greenwich, says new teachers should be more involved in the discussions.

"Alongside all the other constant initiatives, Ofsted, league tables, and continuing government interference, extending the age of retirement will have an adverse affect on recruitment," he says. "Teachers have a very demanding and stressful job. To force them to work longer is not justifiable for those already in work and is going to make the profession even less attractive for those thinking of joining."

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