I visited St Teresa’s on Friday as part of my regular programme of constituency visits.
They raised two main issues of concern. They wish to expand their school. This requires permission to increase the size of the building. They would like to do this by extending outwards into the car park in front. I welcome their wish to expand, as I understand it is a popular school with disappointed parents who cannot obtain a place there for their son or daughter. In principle I favour parental choice and that requires the expansion of popular schools.
I explained that this is a local matter, and they need to discuss it with Councillors and Council planning officials. I have no objection myself to their outline plan, but clearly we need to know the views of the neighbours. It is also important to have a way of handling staff and parent cars if the car park in front is to be reduced in size.
The teachers also raised the issue of teachers pensions. I explained that I am urging Ministers and representatives of the employers, to sit down and negotiate a fair settlement of all the issues. Of course the teachers side should have access to the actuarial calculations and information on what various changes would do to the costs on the fund as well their impact on teachers pensions. The context of the talks is the need to implement a higher retirement age overall to reflect improvements in longevity, to move to equality between men and women, and to control the overall costs of public pensions. Within this framework there is scope to negotiate a preferred timetable and solution on the individual components of pensions, and to reflect the differing circumstances in the public sector over contribution rates and accumulated assets where they exist. I will talk again to Mr Gove about this.