More teachers are retiring early – here are the numbers

September traditionally means ‘back to school’ across the country but in fact that’s not the case for the growing number of teachers who are retiring early.

Research shows a record number of teachers are leaving the profession with a loss of 9.5 per cent of staff either leaving, retiring or going on maternity leave – the highest level in more than a decade. This means that the number of teachers leaving the profession has risen by 11% over the last three years according to the National Audit Office.

A spokesman for the school leaders’ union NAHT reported that figures show a further deterioration in retention after three years with a quarter of those who have entered the profession leaving at this point. This statistic has been steadily worsening over the past four years, which is a worrying trend. It would appear a variety of factors are contributing to this; workload, stagnant pay and increasing bureaucracy.

It has also meant a dramatic drop in the number of teachers with specialist knowledge, with only four in ten physics teachers holding a qualification above A level in the subject they teach. The status ‘qualified teacher’ does not actually relate to subject knowledge but rather the knowledge of teaching methodologies.

So if the number of teachers in England taking early retirement is rising year on year what financial provision are they making?

For members of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) who joined before 2007, the ‘normal pension age’ is 60. However, they are able to choose to retire once they reach 55 by taking an ‘actuarially reduced benefits’ from their pension based on salary and length of service. For members who joined the TPS after 2007 the normal pension age rises to 65.

Focusing on headteachers in particular, the research reveals that only about four in ten retire at normal pension age. The other 60 per cent retire early – mostly by choice, to take an actuarially reduced pension. A survey of headteachers over the age of 50, showed that over half of those intended to retire within four years and most had set a goal to leave their post before retirement age.

However, it’s interesting to note that headteachers rarely discussed their retirement plans, certainly not with their governors or local authority representatives, not wanting to destabilise their school or adversely affect their final career plans. As professional financial planners, however, we would encourage anyone contemplating retirement to start exploring the options as early as possible. Any such discussions would always be in the strictest of confidence and can help you get a full picture of the alternatives open to you, so that you can enjoy your retirement to the full – take a look here.