By Marcus Leach

Association of Teachers and Lecturers' (ATL) executive members voted on Saturday to accept the government's final pensions offer for teachers.

This follows the results of ATL's poll of members in which 91.6% of respondents voted in favour of the proposals.

ATL polled all members eligible to be members of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) in England and Wales, and all members eligible to be members of the respective schemes in Northern Ireland and Scotland because the government wants changes to the TPS to be replicated there. In England and Wales 91.6% of respondents voted in favour of the proposals, in Northern Ireland 89.2%, and in Scotland 100%.

"ATL members are realists. They recognise how tough times are and that the government is determined not to give any further ground," ATL president, Alice Robinson, said.

"Although the government's final offer does not give us everything we wanted, it is the best deal we could get in the current economic climate. And members do not want a significantly worse deal imposed on them if they rejected this one."

The government's final proposals are for:

* A career average pension scheme rather than the current final salary pension, which would benefit those who remain classroom teachers or are promoted early in their careers.

* An accrual rate of 1/57ths, rather than the current 1/80ths for who joined the TPS before 2007 and 1/60ths for those who joined after 2007. This would mean a teacher's pension would grow at a faster rate than in the current TPS. This is a 14% improvement on the accrual rate of 1/65ths in the government's initial proposal.

* Teachers would continue to be able to retire at any age from 55 onwards, subject to actuarial reduction, as they can under the current terms of the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS). Teachers' retirement age would be linked to the state retirement age, but retirement at 65 would be financially viable because of the improved accrual rate.

* Current and future teachers in independent schools would retain the right to be in the TPS, which is a commitment the government did not make until 19 December.

* Teachers who are 10 years from retirement would be fully protected under their current arrangements and teachers who miss the 10-years cut-off by three and a half years would also receive some protection.

* Pensions for teachers, along with everyone else, will rise in line with CPI instead of RPI as the government refused to negotiate on this.

* Pension contribution increases will go ahead from April 2012, because the government would not reverse its decision. However, details of the increases in 2013 and 2014 will be open to negotiation. And ATL has insisted on the government agreeing to reopen negotiations on pension contribution rates from 2015.

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