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I want to share with you my thoughts about how plans to change our pensions will make us pay more, work longer and get less.
Teaching is a fairly stressful job and I rely on having spare money each month to let my hair down and relax.
My partner and I live 100 miles apart, so as well as making it tight to pay for petrol to actually get to work, it will also make it difficult to afford petrol to visit him.
Iím a 22 year old NQT, I donít want to become a social recluse just because Iíve got to pay more into my pension when Iím not getting a pay rise.
Because I will have less money every month, I will be living with my parents for longer. I have only just started to save money for a house which is difficult enough without having to pay more into my pension.
I have no children but was planning to in the next couple of years. I may have to reconsider this as children are expensive and I wouldnít be able to give them a good quality of life if such a large amount of my wages went into my pension. Iíve not started paying my student loan back yet, so money will become more and more tight in the years to come.
Working longer makes me worried for my future. I want to have some time after teaching to enjoy my life. Looking at my family history, it could be that by 68, I would be unable to work.
If I was to find another career that offered better prospects for me when I retired, I believe I would leave the teaching profession. Even though I enjoy it so much and would not be happy, getting less income on retirement would mean I would not be able to afford the simple things in life.
Striking is not a decision that any teacher will take lightly: we have chosen our profession because of a belief in the future of the children whom we teach, and a desire to educate them to the best of our ability. A decision to spend time away from our schools and students will therefore weigh heavily on many of us.
At this stage, however, to strike is to take a stand for the long-term preservation of the quality of British education and of the standards of professionals who choose to work in it; to insist on the transparency of the government that seeks to represent us; and to ensure the livelihoods of those who spend their adult lives working with the next generation.
The substantial rise in the pension contribution will have a direct impact on my standard of living. At present, as an NQT, after bills, pension, rent, money for petrol and money for food have been deducted I am left with £60 spending money a week. Whilst that may sound like a reasonable amount, when one considers that that should cover books, clothing, toiletries, travel, and any evenings or days out it is actually a very small sum of money.
It is particularly small for someone who has effectively spent four years studying, and an additional probation year, for their chosen career. A reduction in my spending money will necessarily mean a lower quality of life, and fewer options for my free time, than I have currently.
It will simply not be possible for me to save for a deposit on a house should the pension rate increase- it is already highly challenging. The idea of having a £30,000 lump sum to place as the deposit on a house in the next ten years, saved through my earnings, is unimaginable.
In terms of the stress of my daily job, which requires substantial organisation and energy at the best of times, and at the worst of times may also involve dealing with emotional and irrational behaviour on the part of students, the effective reduction in my earnings through pension contribution rises will hinder my ability to combat stress.
At a time when membership of a gym is normally around £30 a month, and the government encourages people to attend gyms for stress relief and counter-obesity benefits, it is ironic that I face having more than that sum taken from my monthly wages as an increased pension contribution, in order that I receive a smaller pension when I retire. I would not necessarily object to this arrangement, had the financial case for a restructuring of the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS) been transparently made, however this is not the case at present.
I have on several occasions considered opting out of the TPS altogether. It has only been the counsel of older members of the profession, and of my parents, that has made me grit my teeth and allow more than £100 a month of my current earnings be taken from me. When that proportion increases, the thought of pulling out of the scheme, although improvident, will no doubt become more and more tempting.
It has often been said to me by other teachers that Ďour pension is all we haveí and I think that as a Ďperkí of the profession (albeit one that only results in an average £10,000 a year pension) it is hard to see many others. There are few professions that require a university degree, and further qualification and a probation year which have such relatively low starting salaries, and that are now to be hampered further by increases in pension contributions.
In a country that no longer possesses an industrial advantage over the rest of the world, our economy is more and more knowledge-based, and it will only be in the area of technological innovation and service provision that we may be able to retain global competitiveness in future. Given that this is the case, it is clearly imperative to ensure that the average education, that received by the vast majority of children in this country who are not privately educated, is of a high standard.
In short, high calibre graduates must be attracted and retained in the State Education system. The low starting salary, pay freeze and now increased pension contributions are entirely inimical to this essential need. One need only look at the salaries earned by doctors to realise that highly trained essential professionals can be well paid in this country.
Doctors, obviously, save the lives of those who may be sick or injured. Teachers, however, create the lives of everyone in providing ordinary people with the skills and opportunities necessary for their future advancement and attainment. It is clear then that we diminish teacher pay, through the increase of pensions contributions, at our peril.