I write on behalf of NASUWT members of staff at Loughborough Grammar School who are engaged in their third day of strike action over withdrawal from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).
As you know the teachers at LGS are deeply committed to educating your boys and they take this action reluctantly and with a heavy heart. They have asked me to write to you, and I would be grateful if you could share my letter with other parents either on social media or in your parents WhatsApp groups. It is felt that the School’s official communications have not made the staff’s feelings and opinions clear.
Why are we on strike?
We are devastated to be in this position. This is an action of the last resort taken because we feel we are treated unreasonably and that the case made for removing the TPS was not proven for the following reasons:
The Foundation can certainly afford to keep us in the TPS. The recently announced 3.25% pay rise just for teaching staff salaries by itself will cost almost half a million pounds – a huge proportion of the TPS. Staff had expressly said we would prefer a pay freeze and to keep the pensions.
The money for TPS had already been created. Teachers have had their pay frozen for the last two years – for the first of these years the reason given was due to TPS; parents had the fees put up by 7% which they were told, was due in part to TPS. (That fee increase alone raised over £2million. There is another large increase this summer.)
Staff reps during the ‘consultation’ made many further recommendations including foregoing some of our privileges including healthcare, free lunches, and even pay rises. Further they suggested a ‘tandem’ scheme whereby staff could choose whether to take higher pay and leave the TPS, or have lower pay and stay in the TPS. Their recommendations were rejected without explanation.
The one-to-one ‘consultation’ meetings to which school communications refer were not in fact true consultations: staff were actually told in them that the decision to withdraw was final and that it would make no difference what any of us said in these meetings.
The brutal tactic of ‘fire and rehire’ was announced simultaneously when we were told we were being withdrawn from TPS; around 50 of the LGS staff were dismissed and reengaged in this fashion.
We were told that it would not be legal to allow present staff to remain in TPS and to have new staff put into a different one in a ‘tandem’ system. Jane Hunt, MP for Loughborough, wrote to the governors on behalf of staff with quoted Parliamentary advice to tell them in fact that this would be perfectly legal. Indeed, over 40 independent schools are doing exactly this.
It is vital to be clear how much our pensions mean to us. Teachers are not highly paid compared to other professions, and having a regular, guaranteed income through retirement means an awful lot to us. 91% of staff who filled in a survey stated that the TPS as essential, more so than even our pay itself. Pensions for us are deferred wages.
We have taken this action as a last resort because the governors have refused to listen at every point. Indeed, Sir Trevor Soar himself wished to hold a meeting on the eve of the first day of strike action but was only prepared to answer questions which were pre- submitted in advance of the meeting, and would not allow anything to be said from the floor to hold him to account.
What do we want?
We seek a negotiated solution, and we believe this is possible for the following reasons:
We are confident (because they have told us so) that the Foundation can afford to remain in the TPS until at least the next government evaluation of the scheme in 2024. Members were told in the ‘Town Hall meeting’ with Sir Trevor Soar last week that it was in fact feasible for the school to stay in TPS until 2024, when the revaluation of the scheme is due to take place, but they did not want to “kick the can down the road” – even though there is no information as to whether this revaluation will increase costs or not.
Staff have already indicated that they are happy to reach a meaningful compromise if the TPS can be kept; we are not being greedy or unreasonable.
We do not want this to sour relations irreparably. The vote of no confidence in the governors and their leadership, which returned a 93% lack of confidence across every school in the Foundation, reflects how we feel the schools are being run at the moment. Unlike in other schools, there are no teachers on the governing body. Teachers at LGS have been made redundant whilst there has been a substantial increase in Foundation administrative and non-teaching staff, some of whom are very highly paid.
Many members of staff have given many years of their teaching lives to the school, going the extra mile day in and day out. Always, and not least during the pandemic, we have gone above and beyond for your boys – we very much want this to return to being the normal way of working.
Parents need to be aware that there has been no serious attempt to negotiate from the school’s leaders, either during the ‘consultation’ or at the present time. Apart from one phone call in which they refused to discuss remaining in the TPS in any way shape or form, the Foundation have refused to negotiate with Union representatives.
We are concerned for the future as well as the present
In the longer term, the Foundation will no longer be able to recruit and retain good quality teachers. Some staff are already leaving; the statistics from a survey completed by a majority of the staff suggested that 79% of them would seek to leave – these are experienced and highly-rated teaching staff who have given much of their lives to the boys at LGS.
It is certainly true that a minority of independent schools are consulting over leaving the TPS, but we know that some independent schools are using their continued commitment to TPS to poach the best teachers from other schools.
LGS thrives on the goodwill of staff and their willingness and delight in going the extra mile. Needless to say, if the staff feel very badly treated, this unfortunately will suffer, inevitably having an impact on pupil experience. Staff love the School. We do not want this to happen.
How you can help?
I know this is not something you ever expected to do as parents at such a well-respected institution, but if you are concerned you could help us bring an end to this by asking, as parents and customers, that the school sit down and negotiate urgently to prevent any further days of strike action.
We are ready at a moment’s notice to meet with the Foundation. Yours faithfully, on behalf of LGS staff,
Secretary Leicestershire NASUWT