‘Stark warning’ over future of academy teacher pensions

Academy trusts could follow independent schools in removing staff from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, the NEU union warns

NEU conference: Teachers' Pension Scheme 'at risk in academies'

Teachers in academy trusts could come under pressure to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme like their counterparts in the independent sector, the annual conference of the NEU teaching union has heard.

The conference today backed a call to “fight the government” on any rule changes that might prevent teachers in academies and other school settings from receiving the TPS, after hearing reports about how some members in the independent sector had come under pressure to agree to new terms and conditions “at only a few days' notice without opportunity for consultation”.

Delegate Shaun Murtagh-Howard, representing the conference’s independent sector, said: “In many instances, employers are threatening to break contracts of employment using the fire and rehire tactic.

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"This is a threat of dismissal and rehire on inferior terms. I cannot tell you how appalling and immoral this tactic is, and I’m being polite in what I say.”

He added: “I give you this stark warning: If we do not stop independent schools leaving the TPS, academy owners will see an opportunity. They will lobby and seek changes to the legislation to allow them to leave the TPS."

Academy trusts 'will see an opportunity to leave Teachers’ Pension Scheme'

The rising cost of employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (for which state schools are being subsidised, unlike private schools) as well as financial pressures caused by the Covid pandemic are among reasons for private schools seeking to leave it, as Tes has reported.   

And the latest figures from the Independent Schools’ Bursars’ Association (based on a freedom of information request to the Department for Education last month) show that the number of private schools that have left the TPS is now 227.

Mr Murtagh-Howard said 147 schools 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.  

He said there were “false arguments” about the benefits of leaving the scheme being put forward to “mislead teachers”. He added that NEU members 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.”

Mr Murtagh-Howard said: “The TPS is fundamental to the status of the teaching profession. The loss of the TPS would have a significant detrimental impact on a teacher’s pay in retirement.”

Today’s NEU conference backed a motion that highlighted the “increasing amount of academies run by private equity groups” and that “there is an imminent danger that if we do not stand together now to establish equal rights among teachers to the TPS, that the scheme will continue to be eroded and downgraded to the detriment of all”. 

The NEU will campaign to ensure that all teachers are members of the TPS unless they themselves choose not to be.

Among other measures, it will “fight the government on any rule changes that might affect the status of the TPS within other educational sectors; for example, academies.”

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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