STAFF PENSION CHANGES AT LOUGHBOROUGH SCHOOLS FOUNDATION
AN OPEN LETTER
Admiral Sir Trevor Soar
Chair of Governors
C/O The Bursary
Loughborough Leicestershire LE11 2DU
March 10th 2021
Dear Sir Trevor,
We would like to apprise you of the views of the majority of teaching staff at the Loughborough Schools Foundation with regard to the decision shared with them recently to withdraw from the Teachers Pension Scheme (TPS).
The teaching staff were dismayed and deeply hurt at the decision which will forcibly move them from the security for their future retirement provided by TPS to an inferior scheme run by AVIVA, with its uncertain investment potential, the net effect of which amounts to a large pay cut to the future earnings of your teaching staff.
During the consultation process the staff representatives worked hard to canvass staff opinion and produced a comprehensive presentation and set of proposals which were delivered to the board. In this presentation it was made abundantly clear the store that teaching staff put by their membership of the TPS. Indeed, a number of proposals which involved reductions in current staff benefits were proposed and shown to be able to achieve a saving in excess of the quoted £800,000 per year the board cited as the increased cost of the TPS.
Furthermore, we would draw your attention to the fact that the teaching staff accepted a pay freeze in 2019 specifically in order to stay in the TPS – while at the same time parents were told that the fee increase was to pay for these increased “staff costs”. In 2020 a further pay freeze was applied to staff – without consultation – and as a result of continued below inflation increases for teaching staff, we find ourselves on par with or below (depending on career point) the pay scales in the maintained sector.
I hope you can understand then that the further blow of losing the benefit of a secure pension is something staff have really taken personally as a direct indication of the low value placed on them by the Foundation.
We wish to raise a number of specific concerns about the Foundation’s proposed action:
- The Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) is an essential factor in recruiting the best education staff from both the independent and the state sector.
The TPS is by far the preferred pension scheme amongst teachers in all the LSF Common Rooms but also the wider education sector throughout England and Wales. Given that the majority of schools in both the independent and the state sector are still within the TPS, those schools which contract out will inevitably erect greater obstacles to recruiting the best talent. The removal of TPS risks the foundation’s ability to recruit from the best pool of teachers as sadly the lure of teaching on a leafy campus will not be enough to attract the best candidates.
There is, at present, a high demand but also a considerable shortage of teachers in many subjects throughout the education sector. Many potential teachers are put off by comparably lower wages in education, compared to those they could enjoy in industry. At present the TPS represents one of the considerable attraction factors to mitigate these comparably lower wages.
- Staff retention is also a key factor in maintaining the quality of provision at LSF
Our schools have a large number of dedicated and long-serving staff who have given many years to the schools, ensuring continuity and tradition are upheld for the benefit of the pupil body. We believe that the withdrawal of TPS will seriously impact on the ability of the foundation to retain staff who are vital to the long-term wellbeing of the schools and the education provided. Indeed, many staff have already started the process of looking elsewhere.
Withdrawal from the TPS, forced against the clear wishes of most staff, many will have no economic choice but to ensure that they move to another school within five years in order not to lose the full benefit of membership. As teachers we are concerned for the wellbeing and the education of all of our pupils, but we must also clearly look after our own family’s financial future too. Many staff would have no concerns about opting for the maintained sector where they could retain their TPS benefits, achieve a similar or slightly better salary and have the chance to “give something back” to the community.
- The reputation of the foundation and market position requires highly trained and experienced teachers.
Many parents choose to send their children to LSF because they see the considerable investment into the education of their children to be a way to access something not available in a local maintained sector school. If LSF is forced to recruit from a second-tier pool when seeking to replace teaching staff there will be a knock-on effect to the skill, knowledge, and experience base of the teaching staff. LSF schools require exceptional levels of skill, academic and pastoral knowledge. Without the seasoned hand of experienced teaching professionals, it is likely that LSF will lose its currently enviable academic and pastoral reputation and, again, deplete the value provided to students and parents.
- Withdrawal from the TPS is likely to result in higher costs and ultimately in a need to pass these on to parents through increased fees.
Given the greater inherent risk factors in Defined Contribution pension schemes such as the APTIS(AVIVA) pension scheme compared to government-backed Defined Benefit schemes such as the TPS, teachers will need to ensure that they spread their investments and ultimately pay more into these areas.
This will ultimately lead to teachers looking to secure additional remuneration in order to afford these investments and could result in demands for higher wages, greater fee reductions for staff children, or for additional pay for extra-curricular activities outside of normal working hours (for example trips which take place in school holidays). All of this is likely to have to be passed on as a cost to parents through an increase in fees, or through other cost-cutting measures such as larger class sizes and a reduced level of staffing overall – further reducing LSF’s ability to offer the full programme of activities.
Teachers may be forced to look for other ways, outside of the Foundation Schools, to supplement their income such as additional private tutoring or providing revision classes in other schools during their holidays which would result in less time to support the activities at LSF Schools and again reduce their attractiveness in the highly competitive independent education market.
Teachers at the Foundation schools would better understand this move if the foundation had run out of money and had tried every avenue to continue to support the teaching staff. However, this is not the case – the executive and board stated in their case for withdrawal that the reason for needed to save this money was to ensure a healthy surplus was built up over the next ten years to allow for the building of many more large capital projects. As the teachers’ representatives showed there were other options which have been dismissed out of hand in a callous announcement last week.
While the teaching staff realise that great buildings are nice to teach in and good facilities assist education it seems that the board have totally overlooked the fact that it is teachers who teach, a fact only too obvious during the last year when teachers have been maintaining their excellent provision even without the aid of school buildings while working under immense strain from their own homes. The fact that at the same time as this work was happening the board were preparing to fire-and-rehire teachers that refused to sign the new contracts at short notice is totally unacceptable.
The way the finances are being managed by the executive and overseen by the board of governors is also a concern to staff. While there has been a fall in the numbers on roll there appears to have been a large increase in expenditure including increases for members of the executive committee while teachers have had freezes imposed and a large expansion in the number of centrally employed staff who have none or very few teaching duties.
In summary, Loughborough Schools Foundation’s ability to provide excellent service, and ultimately its continued viability as a business would all be negatively affected by a non-consensual withdrawal from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. We cannot in good conscience let such a regrettable error pass without comment.
LSF’s teaching staff have really given their all to support the school through all the difficulties brought about by the events of the last year going above and beyond to make the best possible provision for teaching under very difficult circumstances. We are of course ready to do more and continue to support the foundation, but we feel that this change, withdrawal from TPS, will undermine the very source of the success of the schools.