Teachers can continue in service for as long as they like and as long as their employers will have them, though they can only pay into the Teachers'
Pensions Scheme until they are 70. So while thousands of teachers are queuing up to retire early, some soldier on beyond the age of 60. And, of course, if the Government has its way, they will be the majority.
The Government's controversial proposal of a higher pension age of 65 would come into effect from September 2006 for new teachers. However, those currently in service would not be affected until 2013, and the higher pension age would then apply only to their service after that date.
So, for example, a 50-year-old who has 25 years' service by 2013 works for a further 10 years and then retires at 60 would get a pension based on 25 years' service without any reduction, plus another 10 years reduced because it is taken before the age of 65. But while no teacher will be forced to work until 65, actuarially reduced pensions could look pretty unappealing to people joining the pension scheme after 2006.
Barry Fawcett, pensions head at the National Union of Teachers, expects that teachers will still be able to take actuarially reduced benefits from the age of 55, but points out that if the proposed changes go ahead, these benefits will be tied to a normal pension age of 65.
"By the time you get 10 years of actuarial reduction, as opposed to up to five years at the moment, the scale of the reduction would be such that I don't think anybody will want to touch it with a barge pole," he says.