General Teaching Council Northern Ireland

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Teachers 'will retire later' after changes to pensions


26/03/2008 :: Northern Ireland :: The Irish News

Changes to lucrative pension payments for teachers will see more forced to work into their sixties rather than retire 10 years ahead of other workers.

Unions fear more newly qualified teachers than ever will be thrown on the scrap-heap without the chance to establish themselves in schools.

This is because a greater number of older teachers, many of whom were considering stepping down, are now reluctantly being forced to work into their sixties.

Unions are also concerned that children's education will suffer if burnt-out staff remain in the classroom.

At present, most teachers have a 10-year head start into retirement, with almost all leaving their posts in their fifties.

Hardly any teacher who quit the profession last year worked right up to the default age of 60 for women and 65 for men.

The average retirement age was just under 55 - but this now looks likely to change.

Premature retirement compensation known as 'added years', which is offered to those taking voluntary redundancy, is being cut.

It is expected that the loss of this incentive, which can add up to seven years to pensions at no cost to the teacher, will force more staff in their fifties to continue working.

The Department of Education has said the existing arrangements are unsustainable even in the short term and action needs to be taken immediately to "control the costs".

It is understood added years costs around £150,000 a teacher to implement.

From April 1, education boards as "compensating authorities" will have to pay for any added years compensation, but as they have no funds for it, the scheme will end.

Falling pupil numbers are causing teachers redundancies but the new pension arrangements mean fewer older teachers will now leave voluntarily.

This will make compulsory redundancies more common and in most cases this could mean last in, first out - a policy which could lead to an upsurge in industrial tribunals.

Young teachers' prospects of securing employment are already bleak, with more than 7,000 across the north out of permanent work.

There are further concerns that governors' work will be stifled by handling compulsory redundancies.

Unions are calling for the reintroduction of 'supply pools', which guaranteed re-employment for laid-off teachers, but were ended in the mid-1990s .

INTO northern secretary Frank Bunting said the implications of the abrupt removal of added years were disastrous.

"Teachers in their fifties will become demotivated and demoralised; young teachers will find it harder to gain employment and compulsory redundancies will become the norm," he said.

"Urgently needed is the re-establishment of the education and library board supply pools which employ teachers made compulsorily redundant."



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