Paying Teachers 33million Not To Teach – O’Dowd’s Teacher Scrappage Scheme

Recently the Minister of Education announced a proposal, which apparently has Executive approval, to spend £33m on a scheme to allow senior schoolteachers to retire five years early, allowing 500 newly trained teachers to take up posts. This is equivalent to £13,200 per teacher, per additional year of retirement. The Department indicates that 2,350 teachers qualify in principle, which means that there will be a process to decide who will be entitled. It also notes that 1,414 graduate teachers do not have a permanent teaching job.

The Department’s most recent actuarial report notes that there are 25,700 contributors to the teacher’s pension scheme with a total payroll of £950m, which equates to an average annual salary of £36,964 per teacher, and that there are 20,400 pensioners under the scheme drawing annual pensions of £280m, or £13,725 per retired teacher. Eagle-eyed observers will note the shortfall between the average annual pension and the early retirement spend proposed by the Department; but it’s likely that they expect this to be made up from the lower salaries paid to newly-recruited teachers compared to their more experienced counterparts.

The scheme is remarkable in that, at £66,000 per post, it is probably the most expensive subsidised job creation scheme in the history of the Executive since 1998, especially given that, technically, the scheme creates no new jobs; senior teachers are to be paid not to work. This is more reminiscent of the controversial European Common Agricultural Policy which pays farmers not to grow produce on their land. Closer to home, it reminds me more of the Labour government’s scrappage scheme for cars – a plan which allowed people with enough money to consider buying a new car a £3000 discount if their existing vehicle was ten years older or more. The scrappage scheme was later criticised not only because it spent public money to the benefit of the kind of people who can afford to buy new cars, but also because many perfectly serviceable cars were needlessly written off.

Furthermore, the proposal is a generous extension to an already ample superannuation scheme. Based on current life expectancy at age 65 – around about 88 years – those who successfully obtain early retirement at 55 are likely to draw a pension for at least 33 years, a total of around £452,925 before accounting for the fact that the scheme protects pensioners from inflation. Early retiring teachers will, on average, draw a pension for longer than they actually worked. For a regular worker to build up a pension pot of this value and retire at 55, he would have to save £13,321 every year starting from age 21. Even then, assuming he drew down his savings, he would end up with a savings pot unprotected from institutional failure, inflation, or the possibility that he would live beyond 88. Purchasing an annuity yielding the same pension over the same period would cost significantly more.

Few reasonable people could dispute the fact that a strong education system, underpinned by a properly-compensated teaching profession, is a crucial component of a flexible, diverse, and prosperous economy. But by extending an already generous pension scheme, the Minister proposes to feather the beds of a group of professionals who already benefit from a retirement plan of a kind unavailable to the vast majority of the working population.

This comes at a time when the rest of the workforce are expected to seek work in other parts of the country when there are no vacancies available locally. There have been several reports over the past few months showing that other parts of the UK encounter acute difficulties filling teacher posts. The Minister’s proposal can be seen as a way to mollycoddle 1,414 unemployed teachers who are unwilling to travel elsewhere to pursue their career.

So how did we end up in a situation where we are spending £33m to pay 500 senior and experienced teachers not to work? Wouldn’t it be better to avoid the additional expense in the first place by training fewer teachers – which would have allowed us to raise the bar of entry to prospective student teachers, pocket the surplus training costs, and keep the £33m?

To answer this question it is worth taking a look at the context, in a year when Stephen Farry, the Minister for Employment and Learning, was blocked by the Executive from cutting the so-called “premia” payment, totalling approximately £2.2m per year, to the two major university colleges. Critics of Farry’s plan at the time, both inside and outside of the Government, argued that the cuts would force the immediate closure of St Mary’s and the imminent closure of Stranmillis.

Farry’s cuts were opposed most vocally by Sinn Féin, the same party whose minister is fronting the early retirement proposal. When looked at in the round, it becomes apparent that the Executive’s overarching objective is to prop up the teacher training colleges with extraordinary grants via the Department of Employment and Learning – overruling its minister to do so – and then use the Department of Education to artificially create jobs for the extra graduates by retiring senior teachers early. Taking the University College funding and the retirement scheme together, the cost of implementing this zero-job scheme is £44m over five years.

By now, it is unlikely to have escaped the reader that, aside from being a politically-motivated waste of public money spent to benefit a select few, the scheme makes a mockery of oft-repeated claims from the Executive, not least in the 2011-15 Programme for Government, that it aims to re-balance the economy, stimulate entrepreneurship and promote private sector investment. It is difficult to take the Executive’s claims to support economic reform seriously when it is willing to spend £44m to train teachers for jobs that do not exist, and then doctor up teaching posts in an effort to disguise this fact. How can private sector investors or entrepreneurs have confidence in an administration that sends mixed messages by using public money to create pseudo-jobs, rather than investing in the skills needed to ensure the economy of the future can be adequately staffed?

The decision to spend money in this way on teachers, rather than education and training for skills which are in demand, comes on the back of three successive reports, from various sources over the past five years, which paint a gloomy picture of the state of educational attainment among children from working class backgrounds. While two of the reports come from loyalist political sources,  there is undeniable consensus a serious problem exists, which especially (but not exclusively) effects socially disadvantaged boys from the Protestant section of the community. The rush to ensure that vacancies are created so that surplus teachers can be gainfully employed sits uneasily alongside the lack of urgency to address skills shortages in other sectors. A recent high profile example was the farcical situation where, in a city which was once ranked among the heavy engineering capitals of the world, firms based at the Shipyard were unable to call upon a local pool of trained tradespersons to work on refurbishment contracts, and instead had to recruit contractors from abroad. How many apprentice metalworkers or equipment specialists could we train with £44m? How many school leavers could we provide with a pathway to a career in IT ?

Judging by their actions, a cynical person might conclude that the Executive places substantially greater priority on pump-priming a segregated education system than it does on investing in schools, in training, or in the general welfare of the deprived communities the major parties often claim to be in politics to defend. The Executive cannot hope to reform the economy while committing public money to forestalling social and economic change. Parties, in particular parties which bang the drum of “protecting vulnerable members of society” would do well to reflect on the impact of the decisions they are making.

  • chrisjones2

    Has anyone profiled by sex and community background:

    * the pool of graduate teachers who are unemployed?
    * the pool of teachers offered retirement?

    Has this policy been equality assessed?

  • murdockp

    Northern ireland is without any doubt a rotten state. These fools need to be voted from power. They only serve themselves and thier friends.

    The public sector will never be shrunk in Northern Ireland

    It is like a worm. You cut it in two and it still continues to grow.

    To top this particular teacher issue of, it is the perfect profession to springboard a political career from within the holidays and benefits available.

    So who are the people voting these policies in ex teachers in the main.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    *Hans Freiburg, a respected Swiss economist and public administrator has a brief discussion with Stormont ministers to highlight what he sees as obvious sources of savings for the administration*

    HF: “Good news mein herren. I have found several ways of saving millions of pounds for your administration which can be released back into the public domain in a relatively short period of time”

    STORMONT MEN: “Ah! Very good there Hans, fire away with the suggestions, till we see”

    HF: “Well, given that you have an obvious over-supply of teachers it goes without saying that we should merge the two training campuses and sell one site off to developers. This should save and indeed earn millions and if I understand correctly the department that benefits from this sale could use this income to proceed with the proposed expansion at your Magee Campus in Derrystrokelondonderry.

    A second, potentially larger saving could be made by merging the many primary schools in your ‘mixed’ villages whilst retaining the religious needs afforded to your various groups.

    Again, surplus assets could be sold off.

    The windfall from these transactions could be used as rate relief as the extortionate rates inflicted upon your businesses appear to be suffocating your economy.

    It is unfortunate that so many teachers would be unemployed but on the other hand the economic boost could perhaps accommodate such educated people and indeed the new fiercely contested environment of a more efficient education system would see the retention of only the best teachers.

    So mein herren, what do you think? ‘Money for jam’ as they say? ”

    STORMONT MEN: “Well Hans, we have a wee plan of our own, we’re thinking of spending tens of millions to prop up the current system and indeed….”

    Unbelievable. I’m off to the pub. Happy new year.

  • Brian O’Neill

    An obvious question is why not use the 33 million to hire these unemployed teachers as classroom assistants, one on one intensive teachers or even to split large class sizes in two. Then let the older teachers retire through natural wastage.

    To me a sensible strategy would be to put these unemployed teachers to work in underperforming schools to close the attainment gap.

  • Roy White

    Excellent post. I doubt that anyone will be able to present a reasoned argument against it. We do indeed train too many teachers, at least partly to ensure that St Marys and Stranmillis have enough trainees (and the funds they bring) to ensure their separate existence. It is surely time to merge the two colleges, or at least have them on a single site. St Marys is however really important to West Belfast, and if it is to close, then a major social, educational or economic “anchor” must be sought to replace it.

  • Glenn

    Will it be sectarian if Tom Elliott asks questions of the Sinn Fein/IRA education minister on this matter???

  • chrisjones2

    “St Marys is however really important to West Belfast,”

    Its about a mile from Stranmillis. There are buses and parking nearby. It would even be possible to walk it from many parts of West Belfast

  • chrisjones2

    Very sensible ….but then we dont do sensible. We do sectarian

    We could also offer counselling services and support to enable them to get work in England where there is a large shortage of trained teachers and they will earn far more …but their mummies might object and not vote for us

  • chrisjones2


  • chrisjones2

    has anyone analysed the subject gap in all this ie what subjects are the senior teachers covering and what is the subject / specialism profile of the just qualified? I can guess the outcome but would prefer to have facts

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Chris, I wish I could have up-voted that statement twice.

  • murdockp

    When the recession hit hard many of the construction graduates and skilled operatives emigrated. We did not see our politicians cry and start capital projects to keep them here, but being a resourceful lot the graduates thrived overseas and not a lot more was said.
    But teachers think it is their god given right to a job in NI despite teacher shortages in the rest of the UK, personally I have no sympathy for any teaching graduate over the last eight years. They all knew the employment prospects were poor before starting their courses yet they still think they have a right to employment and a job for life.
    I also make this statement in the knowledge of the “I’m all right jack” culture of the teaching unions who have made damn sure the T’ and C’s of members in employment are ring fenced to the extent the unions agreed to graduates starting in the profession starting on lower salaries they themselves earned back in the day.
    For me that says it all about the profession, self interest comes first.

  • Zig70

    Or even walk the other way?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    A tad cold but certainly an accurate appraisal of the situation.
    To me this reeks of wanting to support the educational apartheid regardless of the social or financial cost.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Flog Stranmillis, utilise St Mary’s.

  • Disdain

    Depends if you’re talking primary or secondary.

    Anecdotally (i.e. from helping the fiancee through an exhaustive process of applications last year) in primary teaching, there is a premium on Primary teachers with a specialism in Music or proficiency in an instrument. Secondary school, I believe there is a shortfall of STEM teachers. (And conversely, an enormous over-supply of the likes of History, English Lit & Politics teachers – which is to say, folks (not unlike myself!) who have initially graduated from BAs which do not lead directly to specific jobs a la Engineering, Medicine etc.).

    I don’t know why a more targeted and quota-ed system couldn’t be implemented, such as those in place for nursing uni places, dentists and doctors. (Actually, I do know – we all do – it’s just thoroughly infuriating.)

  • notimetoshine

    “But teachers think it is their god given right to a job in NI despite teacher shortages in the rest of the UK, personally I have no sympathy for any teaching graduate over the last eight years. They all knew the employment prospects were poor before starting their courses yet they still think they have a right to employment and a job for life…”

    in fairness, I was choosing university courses 8 years ago, and teaching was still actively pushed as an option from careers advisers and universities. The oversupply of teachers was mentioned but there was a tacit understanding that a retirement scheme was supposed to get rid of older teachers and make way for younger graduates.

    Also young teachers are emigrating in high numbers, you can’t move in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai that have big international schools for young teachers from NI. I know of one relatively small school in Madrid that has 7 young NI teaching graduates in it for example.

    I suppose it says something that teaching is still considered to be an honourable profession and one that high achievers should aim for but we do have far too many.

    “For me that says it all about the profession, self interest comes first.”

    Tell me, is this not the way you should conduct yourself in business? Or in life? I mean you do have to look out for yourself in employment, otherwise you’ll never get on. Surely this private sector mentality should be applauded.

    Though surely instead of retiring these teachers, would the money not be better spent using those unemployed teachers for targeted, intensive intervention in areas of high deprivation and low attainment.

  • Zig70

    Would be interesting to know which site would be the biggest asset in redevelopment terms. Plenty of housing pressure in the west.

  • Granni Trixie

    I studied at st Mary’s and visited Strand and looks to me that Stranmillis has much better facilities so I would utilise Stranmillis.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘We could also offer counselling services and support to enable them to get work in England’
    Indeed. Most of them would probably require a great deal of psychological support before they could even contemplate going so far away from home. And they don’t have such long summer holidays there. They’d sooner work in their local Tesco.

  • Old Mortality

    Chris, I think we all know the answer to the first but it would be impolitic to draw attention to it. Let’s just say that teaching is a very ‘family-friendly’ occupation.

  • Dan

    Farry, if he had any gumption whatsoever, would have walked from the Executive when he was castrated by DUP and Sinn Fein.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Fair enough, then flog st Mary’s and utilise stranmillis.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Y’see Zig, my main horse in this race is administrative common sense.

    The fake Swiss administrator scenario that I wrote below while being a tad simplistic nonetheless shows how we can have extra housing, save millions (?) with the potential of passing these savings onto the cruelly burdened rates-payers and have an expansion of the university in Derry (an area that also needs jobs).

    My fear is that merging the colleges would be sold as a defeat by Shinners as opposed to a victory (which it would be from an efficiency point of view).

    Would they celebrate potential housing injection to WB or sell it as a loss of jobs to whip people up?

    If St Mary’s stayed open then would they celebrate the retention of jobs or be annoyed that the area missed out on housing?

    I fear a win-win would be turned into a lose-lose.

  • notimetoshine

    But NI teachers abound in England and in international schools all over the world.

  • notimetoshine

    I should imagine many are from the CNR community after all they are the only ones who seem to value an education these days.

  • John Collins

    And Brendan put emphasis on the fact that retirees would live over 88, when in fact 88 is the average life expectancy so basically speaking for every one who lives past 88 another shuffles off this mortal coil before it.

  • NMS

    But those who live on make up for the early casualties. There is also the little matter of survivors’ pensions for those who die, the cost of which will depend on the gender split of those retiring. Early retirement arrangements generally cost far more than is assumed and are a very bad idea in principle and in fact.

  • NMS

    I think you can take it that the majority of those departing are Prods, with the new jobs going to Taigs……….

  • NMS

    The SF position in Ireland is very similar around the closure of small national schools, though they are not alone in defending the massive waste of resources. Enda blocked a programme devised by Dept. Education under R Quinn, which would have seen the amalgamation of small schools where there were others close by. The INTO & the Protestant churches have also got in on the act, which only goes to confirm that Quinn was correct.

    Primary school numbers will shortly peak with a likely rapid decline in numbers, though numbers are already in decline in most Western counties such as Donegal, Mayo & Clare. In 2021, there will be 76,000 odd leaving primary schools with somewhere between 55,000 & 60,000 going in.

    While the current Government has reduced places on the various courses for primary teachers, both B.Ed & P.M.E., there is still a large surplus being produced. They are heading off to teach elsewhere. However the position post 2021 in particular looks like there will be not just a) an overall surplus of employed teachers, but b) there will be a particular problem with where the surplus is located.

    The UKNI early-retirement scheme looks likely to be quoted by the INTO as a solution.

  • Cosmo

    Maybe we should give serious preference to them, when appointing in NI, so at least we re-import initiative, wider perspective and a bit of derring-do back into the classrooms.

  • Granni Trixie

    And what would walking away from responsibilities achieve? No, long runs the fox. Minister Farry made a sound case for rationalising teacher training and I am sure that, one way or another it’s going to happen.

  • John Collins

    I was just pointing out that 88 was the average just as you say. I agree also that early retirement per say is a bad thing, although in cases of serious injury or gross ill health it might be considered.

  • John Collins

    With modern technology, early learning tools, and internet access etc do we need to spent as much time in school at all as heretofore. Everybody in this island can speak English as say four years of age. Why do we still need to be studying the subject, regardless of our eventual career path, at seventeen years of age?. Do we really need to study history at all when I can bung in say ‘Henry Joy McCracken’ to google after which I get a basic read out on why he is a noted personage and at the bottom of the article a list of sources are given, which I can access either via the net, or in any library, if I want to do further study of the subject. Should we not be taught skills on how to cope with the pitfalls we may meet in life, more about civic responsibility and how to work best for our community and voluntary organisations for the greater good, etc.

  • Brendan Heading

    I think the financial case is also based on the salary savings. New teachers start on something like £20,000 – £22,000. The average teacher salary in NI is around £36,000 and it’s likely that many of those aged in or around 55 would be earning at least this. And as you likely know, salary is only part of the story of the employer costs – there are employer NIC, pension contributions etc etc.

    Also, the back of an envelope calculation above did not include any of the other benefits under the teacher’s pension scheme. For example, the pension can be paid to a partner/spouse upon death; and I believe a lump sum is payable on retirement.

    So I suspect that in order to bring in 500 new teachers they are dependent on the additional cost savings they get from moving 500 senior teachers into retirement.

  • whatif1984true

    Politicians like one off ‘initiatives’. It is simple and creates instant PR opportunities.

    They never appear able to look at problems in reverse. This matter would be best looked at as a question – “With £33M how can i improve the education of our children?” which is of course the mission statement of Education, isn’t it?

    Departmental budgets are ring fenced and it never seems to occur to ministers that on a continual basis priorities are changing and that e.g. 10’s of £millions spent on stadiums would be better spent on Health or Elderly care etc. etc.

    It used to be graduates were the supposed cream of the education system, undoubtedly they can now be seen to be questionably stupid. Who else would spend years training for a job which has very poor prospects and which are forecast to get even poorer.

    Spending money to ease stupidity is leitmotif of our appointed leaders.

    Ultimately the responsibility is ours, we elected them.

  • Brendan Heading

    I suppose it says something that teaching is still considered to be an honourable profession and one that high achievers should aim for but we do have far too many.
    Indeed, and this is true of a number of professions – law, accounting, teaching, and so on. A couple of generations back, degrees in these fields were the gold standard upon which to build a stable and financially secure career. Now we’ve got too many of them.

    It is not nice to be the merchant of doom. Many of these prospective teachers are passionate about wanting to teach, and wanting to do a job that you believe in is something which is very important. And several reports have been published showing that both St Mary’s and Stranmillis are centres of excellence. But it would be better for people thinking of pursuing a career as a teacher if they were knocked back before, rather than after, completing their teaching qualification.

  • Old Mortality

    Pity they’re disinclined to use it more productively.

  • Brendan Heading

    Dan, when Farry was knocked back I felt the same way. Especially as the reversal of Farry’s proposed cuts meant that it became Farry’s responsibility to identify other cuts to be made, and to take the hit when those were announced.

    However as Granni Traxie notes, walking away wouldn’t have prevented anything. And Stephen has done some good work in office. I can see why he stayed on.

  • NMS

    John, I assume that as in Ireland, the majority of UKNI teachers are female. The current Irish Life Tables (2010-2012) suggest average life expectancy for a woman at age 65 is 21 years and approx. 50% of those alive at 65 will still be alive at 86.

    Traditionally, those with better education and good salaries during their working life and reasonable pensions live a good bit longer than the great unwashed. 88 thus seems a reasonable estimate.

    I remember doing some research into lone parents around 10 years ago and very briefly looked at widows, of whom very few have dependent children. But one of the odd things I came across was there were nearly 6000 retired national school teachers who were also receiving a survivors pension for their late husbands, who themselves had been teachers, on top of course of a SW pension. These figures relate to Ireland not UKNI.

    While I can’t find any actuarial tables for teachers, you might be interested in this ONS note.–population-and-community/life-expectancy-by-the-national-statistics-socio-economic-classification/index.html

  • Brendan Heading

    John, I made my use of language slightly ambiguous in favour of people living beyond 88 because the life expectancy of someone retiring at 55 today is likely to improve over time. But you are of course absolutely right, it’s an average so the numbers surviving beyond the average will be offset by those who survive before it.

    I’ve a suspicion (but haven’t checked facts) that the teaching profession is probably more female than male, which in theory would suggest that I’ve slightly underestimated the life expectancy.

  • Brendan Heading

    appreciate the point of information, thank you. You can probably tell that I’m not a statistician. 🙂

    I deliberately kept my language a little fuzzy to allow for this – as you know there are a variety of statistics, and breakdowns (eg in gender terms). I glossed over these differences somewhat to try to get a rough, round figure of what these proposals were likely to cost overall. I will make a quick edit to the article later, as I don’t want to mislead anyone.

  • Brendan Heading


    This is a whole other area of debate – albeit an interesting one. Do we still need to teach children to add and subtract, given that there are calculators; do we need to teach them joined up handwriting, given that they are likely to type everything in the future ?

    Education is extremely important in terms of the economy, but if you go down this road you reach the point where school is viewed solely as a place where children are trained over an extended period of time to become part of the workforce. We’re in danger of losing part of who we are if schools become nothing other than technical colleges. I think children should at least be exposed to the arts, languages and social sciences and have opportunities to pursue interests in them.

  • John Collins

    As a retired public servant whose wife is in the same position which ever one of us survive each other is entitled to one half of the others pension. However unless we have stamped adequete cards before age 66 either of us is not entitled to SW Pension, which is only right.

  • NMS

    The legislation governing UKNI PS pensions is the Public Service Pensions Act (Northern Ireland) 2014 Sections 11,12,& 13 of the Act relate to cost issues. Surely there is some opportunity to trip up this silly scheme.

  • notimetoshine

    True, but then those teachers in our classrooms are already pretty amazing. I was taught by someof the most amazing, passionate and interesting people you could ever hope to meet. It showed as well. I don’t think one guy in our year didn’t get into the university and course of their choice.

  • whatif1984true

    You are wrong, partners do not qualify for full normal pension rights on the teachers death. This is only a more recent innovation and therefore the 55 yr old teacher will not have the majority of his/her pension passed on to his surviving spouse (I am not talking about the pension he/she received while alive but the reduced widow/widower pension is reduced considerably as a lot of the teachers pension early contributions do not count towards a spouses pension).

  • Brendan Heading

    I said “the pension can be paid to a partner/spouse upon death”.

    This is factually correct, although I should have been clearer that this is an option which until April 2007 only applied in certain circumstances and if the teacher had paid additional contributions to cover it. Details here.

  • Brendan Heading

    Well spotted.

    I am, of course, not a lawyer, but it is likely that DENI will implement the scheme using powers outlined in Section 10. If my understanding is right, Article 6 of this section grants the Department of Finance the power to change the retirement age for a certain group. So, before long, we’ll see an Order laid before the assembly to give effect to the plan. I’d expect that there would have to be a debate in the assembly too – which will be interesting.

    My suspicion is that this plan has been kicking around in DENI for quite some time, and they’ve been keeping it in their back pocket until money became available (a cynical person might believe that this plan was a secret protocol of the Fresh Start agreement demanded by SF as part of the price of a climbdown in welfare reform – the cash allocated for this scheme is almost certainly coming from the rescinding of Treasury fines). They’ll have done their homework and the scheme is almost certainly completely legal.

    The other sections you mention look like an regulations to ensure that the cost of running the public sector pensions in are well understood. It must be borne in mind that there is no “fund” as such, just future liabilities.

  • NMS

    Brendan, the NI Act was required because of a similar Act introduced in Britain the previous year. There has also been subsequent legislation introduced in Britain, which at first glance looks even more restrictive.

    I am sure that they will make it work, I imagine the finer detail involves targeting where the posts are to be taken out, but it is worth casting a spotlight at the inner workings.

    I have spent a long time on Boards of Management of both national & second level schools and saw the damage done by such an offer, older teachers left en masse over a very short period.

    The likely actuarial costs involved of such a scheme are massive. In the case of the older teachers leaving, you lose imputed contributions as well as having to pay pensions. While at the same time, you are accruing further liabilities for the new hires.

  • NMS

    John, I am writing from an Irish perspective, where even pre 6th April 1995 Public Servants are insurable for survivors’ pensions.

  • NMS

    Assuming the same demographic make up as this side of the Border, the vast majority of teachers are women. However on the continued improvement in life expectancy, I am not so fully sure. There seems to have been a slowdown in life expectancy in recent years. However the ONS is more optimistic (or pessimistic if you are a pensions’ administrator, Here is a link to a very recent ONS paper on the issue.

    I think 88 is a reasonable figure.

  • Brendan Heading

    Your knowledge of how these schemes work in theory and practice will be vastly deeper than mine, especially as you have seen at first hand the impact these schemes can have.

    It stands to reason that early retirement schemes of this kind cause problems. I would have thought that having more senior teachers around to mentor/support the junior ones would be especially valuable. At the same time I imagine the Department will spread the impact across schools – only a bit more than one fifth of the eligible teacher workforce will be successful in their application.

    As I noted in another comment, there’s a big gap between the salaries of new teachers and the teachers who will qualify to retire early. If they can save £14,000/year in salary for each teacher (along with the savings in employer NICs and other costs) that should offset the costs considerably. And of course, the new teachers will all be on the new “career average” pension scheme.

    I’m sure the Department have done their sums, and the legal aspects all check out – in fact I’d be surprised if Treasury officials were not involved. But as you’ve said, the impact on teaching is being glossed over, along with the political aspects I drew attention to in my article.

  • whatif1984true

    So a 55 year old’s contributions up to 2007 do not raise pension commitments relating to a spouse on death. Assuming their career started at 21 that is 80% of their pension.
    So factually you were 80% wrong (or more if they are older than 55) which is misleading. Thank you for your post.

  • Brendan Heading

    So a 55 year old’s contributions up to 2007 do not raise pension commitments relating to a spouse on death

    I refer you to the DENI website :

    “Only service from 1 April 2007 will count automatically towards a pension for your partner. If you were a member before that date you may be able to cover previous service by paying extra contributions.

    This is why I said “the pension can be paid to a partner/spouse upon death”.

    Yes ?

  • NMS

    Brendan, career averaging schemes are relatively new, but should not have such a huge saving for groups such as teachers. Posts of responsibility, promotion etc., do not make a huge proportion of the remuneration of most teachers. Such savings, if any, are in over years time. However it is likely that many of those who will leave currently hold posts of responsibility, which will not be filled by the new hires, but by promotion of existing staff.

    Salary for new hires + pension + promotion of some existing staff + loss of imputed contributions is likely to massively exceed current costs, probably by far more than the figure mentioned.

    A review by the Government Actuaries Office would be of more interest than a Finance/Treasury analysis.

    My personal experience of two such schemes in Ireland is that they cost a fortune in the short & long-term. The loss of corporate memory is one issue, but on the other hand, you do get new people with new ideas, if the recruitment is done well. This might not involve employing the malingerers on the dole, rather their colleagues who currently work in the UK, Ireland or elsewhere.

    I know this discussion is slightly technical, but the lack of input from any of the SF supporters says a lot.

  • Brendan Heading

    Thank you – most interesting.

    I think the UUP and Alliance MLAs will take the most interest in this matter – maybe you should put these thoughts to them in writing ? The issues you highlight should at least be aired on the floor of the Assembly when the affirmative approval process takes place.

  • NMS

    I will see can I put something together over the next week and pass it on to Alliance. My suspicion is that most of those likely to rush for the stairs are likely to kick with the left foot looking at the demographics of UKNI.

    On a final point, if you look at improvements in Life Expectancy over the past 40 years, the Irish experience has shown an improvement of 9.5 years at birth for men and 9.2 years for women. At age 65, the increase has been 5.2 years for men and 5.6 for women. (Figs taken from Irish Life Tables 1970-72 & 2010-12) It is likely that much of the gain at age 65 has accrued to the salaried middle class, e.g teachers.

    Assume a 50% clawback of the gain, even at age 65 and take into account the increasing feminisation of the workforce and the pension age should be increased by at least three years for those currently in the system, with further steps to increase the age to 70 in the next ten years.

    However there are no votes in fiscal realities!

  • whatif1984true

    Yes you are right it is possible that a pension can be paid, however it is highly improbable and in reality that was the point I was making.

  • chrisjones2

    Some subjects like sciences and maths require knowledge as well as the skills. In principle though there is a lot in what you say

  • chrisjones2

    I agree!!!

  • chrisjones2

    Which one!!!!

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…especially when its the one sector apart from politics and the clergy where religious discrimination is permitted

  • Jollyraj

    Of course. It is the default response.

  • chrisjones2

    As we have such a surplus why dont we just close one of the colleges, stop training teachers entirely for say 3 to 5 years and redirect the resources into upskilling the ones we have in the sink schools with the poorest records. I assume for example that it might benefit some of the lecturers to do a bit of practical on the ground again in schools as well as giving those schools an important extra resource

  • barnshee

    You have forgotten the most important ingredient/aspect
    Proof–in a verifiable form that society and particularly potential employers use – Exam certificates All the opportunities to “bung in” items to search engines will have no effect without proof of achievement via formall access and completion certificates of some kind.

    ( as an enthusiastic “bunger inner” I have enjoyed access to courses at cracker universities purely for “fun”– educational -yea but purely for “selfish” reasons )

  • chrisjones2

    Or another option ….we have 500 spare posts @ say 25 students / class = 12500 students./ So lets volunteer to bring in say 2000 migrants / year for the next 10 years …problem solved and we have lots of new citizens to add to our economy. They could even occupy all those schools we keep closing

  • NMS

    Chris, a complete stop in re-training makes little sense. However, I am surprised that many Education authorities have not snapped up the surplus. They regularly visit Dublin to recruit. You are preventing school leavers from having a local option to train as teachers. Their only option would be go to Britain.

    Reducing the numbers qualifying annually makes sense, unless of course some of the GB education authorities were willing to pay for the training costs on the basis of those signing up going to work there for a fixed number of years.

    The problem of poorly performing schools may have little to do with the standards of the teachers, more to do with poorly performing parents, perhaps with bad school management. Mediocre teachers are everywhere.

  • NMS

    Given a choice between Aleppo and North Belfast, the average Syrian might prefer to take his chances back home. Think of the welcome from Pastor McConnell & friends.

  • John Collins

    I appreciate your point totally. I worked in a public service position which required a Leaving Certificate standard of education at entry level. When I retired I decided to do a degree in History and Politics, subjects which always interested me, as a Mature Student. We were asked to make out a good case why we were suitable candidates to undertake the course. I made out what I thought was a said ‘good case’ and took care to highlight my past ‘academic achievements’. Happily I was accepted and stayed the course. As is the case with these courses we, the students, were expected to contribute to debates during the course. One gentlemen, of my own vintage, got involved in these debates sparingly but when he did he showed himself to be a very able contributor.
    One day while chatting to him with I casually asked him where he had received his secondary education. ‘Secondary education’ he laughed ‘ I never attended a Secondary School in my life, in fact I left school at thirteen years of age’. He got a fine degree and completed all his assignments in time
    My main point about this is that I was 58 years old at the time and if I had this man’s ‘lack of education’ I would never have applied for a BA course, as I would have been absolutely convinced I would not be accepted.