A coalition of more than 20 independent schools is “reluctantly” proposing to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS), Tes can reveal.
If the plans are confirmed following a consultation process, the members of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) will be the latest to join a growing number of private schools choosing to leave the TPS after the government raised the rate of employers’ contributions by 43 per cent in 2019.
While state schools are covered for this increase, for now, independent schools are not, meaning that some schools either have withdrawn or are considering a withdrawal from the scheme to cut costs.
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Combined financial pressures of the pandemic and Brexit have also been blamed for schools leaving the scheme.
The GDST is made up of 23 fee-paying schools and two academies. It said the proposed change would affect teachers across its independent schools.
In a statement sent to Tes today, the trust said: “The GDST’s proposal is to leave the TPS and move to a new set of pay and pension options from January 2023.
“This would include teachers becoming members of the GDST Flexible Pension Plan. These proposed pay and pension options have been developed following an extensive review.”
A letter from the GDST trustees and the chief executive to teachers today announced the start of the collective consultation period.
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 challenges of 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.
“Today, the independent schools sector faces challenging times and many independent schools have already made the decision to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, following the substantial increase in costs in 2019.
“It is important to us that our teachers feel supported through this process and understand what the proposed changes could mean for them, which is why we have developed a series of resources to help them understand the proposed changes in more detail.”
She added: “We are committed to a full and robust consultation period and want to hear the views of our teachers and NEU representatives, and we will consider all feedback received before we make any final decisions.”
In April, the NEU annual conference heard how 147 independent schools across the country had left the TPS since 1 September last year but that 968 still remained in the scheme and had “seen the benefits”, including in retaining the ability to attract quality staff.
The conference also heard how teachers had been balloted for industrial action in 40 independent schools and that more than 50 schools had “successfully seen off attempts to strip away their pensions”.