Counsellor wins right to stay in teacher pension scheme

8th April 2011 at 01:00
Court of Appeal overturns council decision to transfer her to less generous one

A school counsellor who lost the right to a teacher's pension has won a legal battle against the decision.

Beverley Owens was moved out of the Teachers' Pension Scheme in 2007 after she was employed in a service providing counselling for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties in mainstream schools.

Her employer, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council, said it moved her to the less generous local government scheme because educational counsellors were "organisers" rather than teachers.

But the Court of Appeal last week found that she had the right to be called a teacher and remain in the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

"The art of good teaching is not confined to teaching knowledge," said Lord Justice Ward. "The greater gift a teacher can bestow is teaching how to acquire and apply knowledge."

Ms Owens described herself to the court as "a teacher with a specialism in counselling". Although a qualified teacher, she accepted that she did not teach the national curriculum, but was "removing the blocks to learning".

A pensions expert estimated the disputed transfer had cost Ms Owens more than #163;7,000.

Backed by the NUT, Ms Owens appealed last June to Coventry County Court, but Judge Phillip Gregory ruled that she was not employed in the capacity of a teacher.

He defined her role as "facilitating the work of teachers" by making children more receptive to learning.

But last week, the Court of Appeal ruled the county court had approached the question of what constituted teaching "from too narrow a perspective".

Lord Justice Ward said she was the victim of a "battle within the ranks of the council", between staff who viewed her and her colleagues as teachers and those who saw them as having a "non-teaching role".

He added: "She (Ms Owens) is in a school teaching children how to think and how to learn. She is unquestionably in employment in the capacity of a teacher."

Dudley Council director of education and lifelong learning John Freeman had claimed that the work carried out by staff in the counselling staff was "ancillary to teaching" and therefore they should not receive a teacher's pension.

The judges granted Ms Owens a declaration that she was a "teacher" for the purposes of her pension.

REFORM

CONTRIBUTIONS EXPECTED TO RISE

Teacher pensions have become a hot topic as the Government pushes through reforms in a bid to force down public spending.

From Monday (11 April) teacher pensions will be calculated according to the Consumer Price Index, rather than the generally higher Retail Prices Index inflation measure.

Average teacher pension contributions are expected to rise by around 50 per cent from 201415.

An independent review of pensions conducted by Lord Hutton has recommended a switch from final salary to "career average" pension schemes in the public sector, meaning that many could lose out on thousands of pounds a year.

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