Colleges to go it alone on pensions

January 24, 1997

Colleges and new universities are hoping to free themselves from the teachers' pension scheme to avoid being subject to policy decisions designed for schools.

The education minister James Paice agreed last week to consider alternatives to the teachers' superannuation scheme for further education colleges. And Department of Education and Employment officials agreed earlier this month to discuss proposals from theCommittee of Vice Chancellors and Principals to divide the scheme into separate sections for schools, colleges and higher education.

Options are likely to include joining the Universities' superannuation scheme, which is protected by independent trusts, and setting up a private scheme.

Last week the Association of Teachers and Lecturers claimed an early victory in its High Court challenge to recent Government rulings on early retirement.

Mr Justice Dyson ruled for an urgent hearing of the ATL's application, which questions a Government letter warning employers not to let teachers retire early if they intend to replace them or re-employ them as supply staff. He gave the Government three weeks to prepare its case.

Consultation finished last week on proposed changes to the superannuation scheme, which will shift more of the costs of early retirement to employers. The Government hoped this would stem the flood of teachers leaving school early. But colleges argue that early retirement has been essential in helping them achieve money-saving restructuring and would become effectively impossible.

A final decision is expected in the next few weeks, although their financial consequences were included in last November's Public Expenditure Survey.

At a meeting with James Paice last week, representatives from the Association of Colleges argued that further education should no longer be part of a scheme dominated by schools.

A spokesman for the DFEE said: "This was one of a number of issues which the minister agreed could be examined in the longer term and he has agreed to have a look at it."

Roger Ward, chief executive of the AOC, said: "We are particularly thrilled with this outcome because the AOC is eager that the further education sector should be seen as separate. The principle is that we want to establish an effective scheme for the FE sector but we don't rule out joint schemes with the universities."

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