The Government's consultation on the changes to teachers' pension arrangements ended today with unions calling the exercise a sham, writes Frances Rafferty.
The proposal to shift the responsibility for pension costs to schools, colleges and local authorities is expected to end early retirement for thousands of teachers.
Yesterday, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers started its challenge against the Department for Education and Employment's proposals in a preliminary hearing in the High Court. Cherie Booth QC, wife of the Labour leader, is presenting the union's case that the Secretary of State has acted unlawfully by stipulating new criteria for early retirement.
A letter from the DFEE's pension division prevents a teacher who has retired on March 31 returning to finish the term and says a member of staff cannot retire if his or her class is left untaught or has to merge with another. These criteria have to be met when a school signs its certification for early retirement.
The National Association of Head Teachers, which has advised its members not to co-operate with initial teacher training from September in protest, is to lobby Parliament on Tuesday.
A document for members intending to meet their MP says: "Early retirement was introduced in 1977 to ameliorate the problems of an ageing workforce. More than two-thirds of all teachers are aged 40 or above. There is an urgent need to recruit well-qualified young teachers in order to improve the age profile of the profession."
David Hart, the union's general secretary, said the Education Secretary intends to use the pension changes to slash initial teacher training targets.