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What the teachers say

TEACHERS should be allowed to collect their pensions if they leave at 55, government advisers said last week. But the amount they receive will be "actuarily reduced" - which could mean a teacher with 25 years' service losing pound;2,000 a year.

A 52-year-old junior-school teacher in Portsmouth, who asked not to be named, said the new scheme put him between a rock and a hard place.

"I would be interested in going at 55, I have an elderly mother with Alzheimer's disease. I have got to care for her and this looked like a ray of hope, but looking at the figures it will be touch and go.

"If I wait to 60, my pension would be pound;9,758 a year and if I get the actuarial reduction it would be pound;7,322. That is more than pound;60,000 down if I survive into my 80s. If I was only going to live into my early 60s, I would take the money and run, but over the years this is going to be quite a reduction."

Martin Goold, 52, a teacher at a Suffolk secondary, said he felt the handling of the teachers' pension scheme in recent years had been "scandalous". The new reduced pensions should be taken in the context of the axing of most early retirement options by the Tories.

"If this was a private scheme, there might be some questions asked in Parliament," he said. "When I started as a teacher in 1968 you were given a prospectus, you had an idea of what your pension scheme was.

"Until recently you were normally allowed to retire early if you had good reason. Now that is not possible. You can leave, but you do so at your own expense. I would consider taking early retirement but I would not take this. I would think I had been done."

David Belfield, a design and technology teacher at Cowplain secondary school in Hampshire and a local leader of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said a number of his members had shown interest in the new scheme but he was advising caution.

Aged 53 himself, he said he would certainly not be taking up the offer. "I am the main breadwinner. I wouldn't be interested in it at all. This permanently pulls down your income.

"My concern is that local authorities might try and pressure teachers into taking this, which is paid for centrally, and allow them to save redundancy payments or whatever. It might not be in teachers' best interests to do so."

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