As the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) begins consultation on proposed changes to teachers’ pensions across its 23 independent schools, its chief executive said the decision “has not been taken lightly”.
Since a 43% increase in employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) was introduced in 2019, the GDST said it has been “grappling” with the “additional burden”. The cost increase has been covered by the government in state schools, but not in independent schools. The trust wants to place teachers on an alternative flexible pension plan.
Teachers in the trust – who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) – are currently voting on whether to begin strike action. The NEU said leaving the TPS would result in income levels for teachers being “significantly worse” than in local state schools.
They also warned that there would likely be a “talent drain” as teachers are forced to leave to protect their retirement.
The indicative ballot of almost 1,400 staff runs from 22 November to 6 December. It is the first national ballot on strike action in the GDST’s 149-year history.
Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the GDST, said: “We are, and always will be, incredibly grateful for the hard work and commitment of our teaching staff, especially throughout the past 18 months. We appreciate that our teachers’ pensions are a significant part of the overall reward package they receive, and the decision to propose changes to pensions for teachers has not been taken lightly.
“We are doing all we can to support our teachers through this collective consultation process, which runs until the end of January 2022. We would not have proposed to leave the TPS until we had a viable alternative for our teachers, one which we are confident will give them a comfortable retirement and additional flexibility around their total remuneration package.”
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “The proposal by the Girls’ Day School Trust to leave the TPS 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.”
Feedback from teachers and the NEU will be shared with the GDST, who will make the final decision in January on whether to move forward with the proposed flexible pension plan.
So far, 280 independent schools have left the TPS, and there are more considering withdrawing from the scheme.