Warning over teacher pension plans
Government plans to cut teachers' pensions risk damaging education "for years to come", union leaders have warned.
In a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne, two teaching unions said that the coalition's school reforms depend upon school leaders to implement them.
But headteachers and their staff are feeling undermined and threatened by the planned changes to their pension schemes, which they say will leave them paying more, working longer and receiving less when they retire.
The letter is signed by the leaders of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), who between them represent most school and college leaders in the UK.
"The current proposals for pensions threaten education standards; an outcome that will ultimately be far more expensive for our country than pensions," the letter says. "In the first instance, the changes will seriously demotivate school leaders and alienate the profession.
"Nobody is queuing up to be a head teacher at the moment - 40% of primary vacancies go unfilled at the first advert. A pay cut, which is the ultimate effect of the pensions proposals, will exacerbate this situation. You cannot have great schools without great leaders, and so these changes will harm standards.
"Second, a deterioration in working conditions will signal to the profession that the Government is not committed to its stated and welcome aim of making teaching a high status profession."
ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: "The Government's fixation is driven by the need to cut public spending to address the national debt, not because the pension scheme is unaffordable. Changes made to pension arrangements now will affect young people's education for years to come, when the current budget situation is a matter of history. These decisions should be based on a long-term view."
NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said: "Public workers are doing their bit to bring our nation's expenses under control. Teachers have already accepted a two-year pay freeze and tighter budgets. We already make significant contributions to our pension scheme and have agreed to bear the risk if it is unaffordable - but there is no evidence that it is unaffordable."
The letter comes just days before two teaching unions - the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and the National Union of Teachers - announce the results of their ballots for strike action over pensions, which could affect thousands of schools.