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Monday, November 29, 2021

Private school teachers to vote on first national strike over pensions

Teachers at a private girls’ school trust are vote on its first ever strike as a union ballots members for action on pensions.

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) will vote in an indicative ballot on whether to launch strike action over the Girls’ Day School Trust’s plans to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).

The union, which is the recognised union for staff across the 23 independent schools run by the trust, has said it is the first national ballot on strike action in the trust’s 149-year history.

The proposal to leave the pension scheme would leave remuneration within the group of private schools significantly worse than local state schools, the union said. It warned that a “talent drain” from GDST schools is likely as staff may leave to protect their retirement.

A number of independent schools have withdrawn from the scheme, or are considering a withdrawal, after the rate of employers’ contributions increased by 43 per cent in 2019.

The rise followed a valuation of the public service pension schemes by the Treasury. The uplift has been covered by the Government in state schools, but not in private schools.

‘Parents could be hit with higher fees’

Private schools which choose to remain have already warned that the increase could result in them having to charge parents higher fees.

The schools run by the GDST include Kensington Prep School, Blackheath High School, Sutton High School and, outside of London, the Belvedere Academy in Liverpool, Brighton Girls, Oxford High School and Royal High School Bath.

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The proposal by the Girls’ Day School Trust to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is an unnecessary decision. There is no imperative reason to leave the scheme. 

“The Trust’s finances are healthy as can be seen in their public accounts. No evidence to the contrary has been provided to staff or their recognised union, the NEU.”

He added: “We continue to engage with the employer and sincerely hope we can persuade the trust to withdraw their plan to remove our members’ pension rights under the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.”

One in 10 institutions plan to leave

Data released after the increase was announced showed that up to one in 10 fee-paying institutions planned to leave the Government-backed scheme.

The indicative ballot of staff across the 23 private schools will run from November 22 to December 6.

An NEU spokesman said: “Almost 1,400 teacher members at GDST are part of the indicative ballot. We represent 65 per cent of teacher staff at the trust, and this is going up every day.”

It comes after the GDST began a consultation with staff and the NEU across its independent schools in September over the proposal to leave the scheme.

The trust has said 280 independent schools have already left the pension scheme.

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