Teachers in the GDST are called upon not to strike this week following new pension offer and pay rise.
22 February 2022
Teachers at 23 private schools have been offered a pay rise and an “updated” offer to stay in their pension scheme for longer, following walkouts over pension plans.
They have been called upon not to strike this week following the new proposals, with walkouts currently planned for Wednesday and Thursday.
Earlier in February, teachers from 23 independent schools within the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) began six days of strike action throughout this month and early March, with around 1,500 members of the NEU teaching union involved over the trust’s proposed withdrawal from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
The NEU, the recognised union for staff across the 23 independent schools run by the GDST, has said that exiting the scheme would leave affected teachers 20% worse off on average in terms of their annual pension payments.
On Tuesday, the GDST said that its trustees had “carefully considered” feedback collected from teachers during the consultation period around pension changes, and proposed a “strong updated offer which will meet teachers’ concerns”.
“Under the proposal, teaching staff will now stay within the TPS for a longer period and all GDST staff in independent schools will be awarded a pay rise,” the GDST said.
The new proposals would mean teachers could stay in the TPS until September 30, 2023.
The trust said that a “strong alternative” to the TPS was being proposed, with 20% employer contributions “alongside other benefits”.
It said the new scheme included an option where teachers could expect a drawdown pension that would “match or exceed” what they would receive from the TPS pension beyond an average life expectancy.
“The Trustees have a legal duty to secure the GDST’s future and deliver on its charitable mission to reach as many girls as possible,” the GDST said.
“They have concluded that the additional annual financial burden of £6m created by increased TPS costs is unsustainable and therefore the GDST cannot remain within the scheme indefinitely.”
A growing number of private schools have left the TPS after the Government raised the rate of employers’ contributions by 43% in 2019.
While state schools were covered for the increase by the Government, private schools were not. More than 300 private schools have given notice to leave the scheme since 2019.
The GDST trustees said they knew teachers would “want time to consider the new proposal and we are ready to talk these through in detail”.
They said they were committed to reaching a settlement, and had invited the NEU to meet with them, but had also “requested that they call off this week’s proposed industrial action while these discussions take place”.
“With the Trustees’ decision announced today, the pursuit of strike action with a new proposal on the table would cause unnecessary disruption for students,” they said.
They added that they “care deeply about our teachers” and would not have put proposals forward unless they felt they were “absolutely necessary” for the long-term future of the trust.
They said the sustainability of the trust’s future would enable them to “continue to provide an excellent and affordable independent education for our students” and at the same time offer teachers a “comfortable retirement”.
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said: “It is very disappointing that the GDST has not reversed their decision to withdraw from the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS).”
“If they were really listening to the strength of feeling from their staff, they would realise that short term financial sweeteners offer no compensation for the long-term security of the TPS.”
“There is no financial imperative for GDST to insist on removing staff from the TPS next year. The NEU will of course enter the negotiations with GDST which we have been asking for. However, this offer gives our members no reassurance that the TPS will remain in place and the strike action will go ahead on this week.”