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    Private school staff vote on strike action over pensions

    13 January 2022

    Punter Southall Aspire

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    2 minute read

    A vote on strike action is set to take place across 23 independent schools

    Staff at a group of independent schools are being asked to vote on strike action after they overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).

    Teachers at the 23 institutions which make up the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) will be formally balloted in January on whether or not to suspend their labour. If they do, it will be for the first time in the organisation’s 149-year history.

    We know many independent schools currently reviewing the ongoing viability of remaining in TPS (or STPS in Scotland) will be watching this closely, as will their teaching staff.

    We are currently working with 30-plus schools dealing with the pressure caused by the steady ratcheting up of what they must pay in to TPS/STPS and the potential risk of further increases. We know many schools would have addressed this issue sooner, when the last rises came into effect in 2019, but the pandemic pushed this further down the agenda.

    As of September 2021, 284 of 1,222 schools across the UK say they have left or intend to make their exit due to the 2018 contribution rate increase and/or the uncertainty and lack of control over future increases. With the next actuarial review underway to determine future contribution levels from 2024, we know there is general nervousness surrounding the risk that costs may balloon to an unsustainable level.

    Any rationale supporting a proposal to withdraw from TPS/STPS must be well considered, comprehensive, and stand up to scrutiny. In the case of the GDST, members felt strongly enough to consider voting with their feet. Any school must make sure it has carefully explored all possibilities before setting out its proposal to staff.

    We help schools to see the challenge they face in the round. Whether remaining in TPS/STPS or putting in place a new pension arrangement, the same issues need to be addressed.

    As a seat of learning, is the pension you make available to your staff a benefit they will value enough to stay with you and attractive enough to recruit new colleagues?

    As a business, is the cost of the pension scheme manageable within your financial framework and, critically, are you able to forecast with confidence what it will cost in years to come?

    It might seem that these two basic observations are mutually exclusive, but the insights we have gained from our established involvement in this field suggest this is not the case. There are a number of approaches you can take but the single most important one is: what’s right for your school?

    If we believed in a one-size-fits-all world, pension and employee benefits consultants would not be needed. Each organisation is unique and when you’re talking about the financial future for colleagues, more individual still.

    This latest development demonstrates that the issues of affordability and suitability are very different when viewed from the very different perspectives of the school, staff and, indeed, parents.

    We can bring our experienced view to bear to give every stakeholder group a clear picture.

    This is a debate in full, open sight and schools must ensure they have the overview they need to help to shape their long-term future.

    As of September 2021, 284 of 1,222 schools across the UK say they have left or intend to make their exit.

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