Teachers have voted to strike over pensions in the Girls’ Day School Trust’s (GDST) 23 independent schools.
A formal strike ballot of National Education Union (NEU) members working in GDST schools showed overwhelming opposition to the employer’s plan to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).
Ninety-five per cent of teachers voted in favour of strike action, with a turnout of 84%. The dates of the strike action are still to be decided.
Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “We call on the Council of the Girls’ Day School Trust to withdraw the proposal to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
“This is an exceptionally strong mandate. The Trust should reflect on just how a large body of committed and hard-working staff have reached this point. Members are resolved and rightly determined to defend their pensions. We sincerely hope that strikes can be averted.”
‘We are of course disappointed’
Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the GDST, responded to the vote: “We are of course disappointed with the result, but our priority is to continue working closely with our schools to ensure our students are able to continue learning effectively during this time.”
The GDST’s final decision will be made in the last week of February and they have urged the NEU not to call for strike action before then.
Giovannoni continued: “The decision to begin collective consultation was reluctantly reached by the GDST Trustees following a 43% increase in employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) imposed by the government in 2019. Since this time, the GDST has been grappling with an increase in employer contributions from 16.48% to 23.68% of teachers’ salaries (an extra cost of £6m each year).
“The government has covered this rise in the maintained sector, including our two academies, but independent schools must deal with this additional burden on their own. As a result, over 280 independent schools have already left the TPS. Many more are planning to leave or are in consultation with their teachers about changes.
“Teachers are central to the success of the GDST and we value their incredible contribution and dedication to the education of girls in our family of schools. We have put forward these proposals in response to the challenges we face to control costs and are committed to providing our teachers with a strong alternative pension scheme, with a 20% employer contribution into a flexible, defined contribution pension plan alongside other benefits.
“We would not have put forward these proposals unless we felt they were necessary to support the long-term sustainability of the GDST family of schools, enabling us to continue to provide an excellent and affordable education for girls in our schools and at the same time ensuring our teachers have a comfortable retirement.”