Exclusive: Academies ‘blackmail’ teachers to take worse pensions

NASUWT says it has ‘nipped in the bud’ academies' efforts to persuade teachers to leave Teachers’ Pension Scheme

Martin George

Families of children with SEND are having to fight tooth and nail for funding, writes one parent

Some academies are “blackmailing” teachers into opting out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and joining schemes with worse benefits, a union leader has warned.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said the issue had come to the fore since the government announced a large increase in employers’ pension contributions.

After being contacted by Tes, the DfE said it would contact the NASUWT to discuss the union's concerns.

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From September, the amount that employers will have to pay towards the scheme will increase from 16.48 per cent to 23.6 per cent.

The government has announced that it will fund the increased costs for state-funded schools until at least April 2020, but has not said what will happen after that.

Teacher pension warning

Ms Keates told Tes: “I think what’s happening now is that some of these schools are saying, ‘We’re not going to be able to afford this, so we may as well start looking now for an alternative.'

“By law, they have to stay, as an employer, in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme because they are state-funded, but there’s nothing in the legislation that stops them offering an alternative, and, of course, if they can persuade their teachers to opt out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, as [teachers] are entitled to do, then they will reduce their employer costs on the TPS.”

She told Tes that in the past month the union had seen “at least half a dozen cases” where academy trusts were thinking about doing this.

She added: “We have gone in very hard and nipped it in the bud, and we have basically put information out to our members saying, ‘If your employer raises this, don’t even countenance it because the scheme won’t be as good as the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.'”

Ms Keates said it was part of a pattern of teachers “being made to feel guilty” about taking a pay increase or not covering lessons for sick colleagues “because schools are so money-focused”.

She added: “It’s this constant blackmail about the finances of the school, rather than looking at the wellbeing of the teachers.”

Ms Keates warned that there was a trend for younger teachers, in particular, to opt out of the TPS in order to save money.

Last month, the TPS emailed schools to warn about alternative pension schemes.

It said some schools had been contacted by “organisations promoting potential alternative pension schemes for workers in the education sector”, and stressed that any such arrangements are “not associated with either the Department for Education or the TPS.”

It reminded maintained schools and academies that they are legally required to continue to enrol eligible teachers into the TPS.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Multi academy trusts must enrol all their teaching staff into the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

"The Pensions Regulator sets out clear guidance on the risks associated with incentivising members to leave the scheme.

"We have no evidence to suggest that is common practice.”

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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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