Teachers at GDST schools to strike next week

Six days of strike action have been announced over the Girls’ Day School Trust’s plans to remove its teaching staff from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme

Teachers from the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST)’s independent schools will go on strike next week to defend their pensions.

It is expected that 1,500 teachers, who are members of the National Education Union (NEU), will take part.

Six days of strike action have been announced, starting on 10 February in London, as well as 23 February, 24 February, 1 March, 2 March and 3 March.

The strikes have been announced in response to the GDST’s plans to remove its teaching staff from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS). The NEU said this would make teachers “at least 20% worse off on average in terms of the annual amount they receive in pension payments”.

A single formal ballot, which closed last week, resulted in 95% of teachers at the 23 schools voting in favour of discontinuous strike action on a turnout of 84%.

The NEU said the GDST’s finances appear “to be in good health” and that they have not demonstrated “any financial imperative” for the decision.

Cheryl Giovannoni, chief executive of the GDST, responded: “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.”

‘Strike action will send a clear message’

The GDST urged the NEU not to call for strike action before their final decision had been made in the last week of February, however, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the NEU, said it will be “too late” by then.

“Members will not be waiting for the Trust’s final decision in late February. That will be too late. Strike action on 10 February will send a clear message to parents and the wider public that the GDST is taking the wrong path,” said Courtney.

He continued: “The Girls’ Day School Trust has no justification in its plan to slash the pensions of its teaching staff. This will be a disaster for staff, for future recruitment and for pupils.

“Teachers always take strike action with a heavy heart, which is why this extraordinary mandate should give the Trust pause. Members are angry and determined to defend what is rightfully theirs.

“These are committed and hard-working staff who have been pushed to the point of taking action, the like of which the Girls’ Day School Trust has never seen. Teachers’ strength of feeling is unwavering.”

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