Teachers at two independent schools have voted to go on strike over their schools’ plans to withdraw them for the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, Tes has learned.
Teachers at The Grange School, in Northwich, Cheshire, and at Westholme School, in Blackburn, Lancashire, are among thousands of independent school teachers across the country said to be concerned about being removed from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).
But many independent school leaders say there is no alternative after the government introduced a hike of 43 per cent in employers' contributions from September last year, for which, unlike state schools, they are receiving no help from the government.
Debbie Leonard, headteacher of The Grange School, where teachers have voted to strike for six days between 25 February and 12 March, said there were “ongoing conversations” taking place between governors and teachers.
Teacher pensions strikes
“There are quite a lot of [independent] schools having these conversations across the country," she said. "The affordability of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is just not sustainable.”
The head said a rise in school fees to cover the rise in employers’ contributions would not be appropriate because some parents could be squeezed out of the market.
Asked what would happen if the strikes went ahead, Ms Leonard said: "I suspect parents would demand fees back."
The two schools are in addition to the list of 97 private schools that have notified the Department for Education of their plans to leave the TPS and to offer schemes described as “less favourable” by the NEU teaching union.
In June 2019, staff at St Edward’s School, Oxford, went on a two-day strike in protest about the school’s decision to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
Peter Middleman, regional secretary of the NEU teachers' union, which is representing some of the staff at Grange and Westholme schools, said although staff at Westholme had voted for strike action, they were going “back around the table” for more discussions.
He said: “Increased pension contributions forced on employers are not desirable, but a good employer would look at mitigating the impact on staff.”
Westholme School was contacted for comment.