TEACHERS will go on strike at a prestigious Oxford school to protest 'disgraceful' plans to change their pensions.

Union members at St Edward's School in Summertown, better known as Teddies, are expected to walk out on Friday. 

The strike has been organised by members of the NASUWT teaching union, and the Oxford Mail also understands that more teachers could also strike on Thursday, as part of the National Education Union. 

The private school has informed staff of its intention to pull out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme from September 2020, citing the rising cost as a 'huge extra financial burden,' and put teachers in a private pension scheme instead.

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Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the replacement scheme would be 'significantly inferior and will not provide them with the same benefits and securities in retirement.'

She added: "Disgracefully, the key reason for this decision is that the employer wants more control of the staff pension fund.

"Pensions are a critical part of a teacher’s total reward package and our members are understandably angry and worried about these unnecessary attacks on their pension."

The NASUWT has confirmed 21 of its members will be taking part in the strike, while the NEU has not yet said if any of its members will also be striking. 

The TPS is a scheme created by the government and run on behalf of the Department for Education, to define teachers' pension benefits, and the government recently announced a huge hike in employer payments.

Most schools offer the scheme to ensure they can recruit staff competitively, but the rise in employer contributions - an increase of more than 40 per cent - has fuelled funding pressures across the country.

The government has pledged funding to help state schools cover the cost, but no such allocation has been made for the independent sector.

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Stephen Jones, the warden (headmaster) of St Edward's, explained: "Last September, the government announced that it would be raising employers’ contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme by an unprecedented 43 per cent.

"For St Edward’s, this represents a huge extra financial burden which has no positive effect on the pensions our teachers will receive.

"St Edward’s cannot simply absorb such an increase in costs without it having a severe inflationary impact on the fees parents pay."

He said the rising cost 'will affect every school in the country', adding: "St Edward’s acted to take responsibility for our finances and to protect the level of fees we must charge.

"Following a consultation period, we announced our intention to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and to arrange alternative provision."

Oxford Mail:

Teddies warden Stephen Jones

He said pupils' care and education remains the school's priority, and teachers are 'vital' to the school community.

Mr Jones added: "They work extraordinarily hard to provide our pupils with an education of the highest quality around the clock.

"While we understand the concerns some of our teachers have about this change to their pension we do not believe striking is the right response.

"Throughout this process we have listened to their concerns and delayed the timing of the withdrawal from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme by 12 months at their request.

"Following the detailed consultation, Governors are firmly of the view that their decision is in the best interests of the school.

"All pupils will be involved in meaningful activities during the period of industrial action and our high standards of care will not be compromised."

Ms Keates of the NASUWT said teachers 'care about the pupils' and industrial action was a last resort, but said members felt they 'have been left with no choice.'

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Michelle Codrington-Rogers, NASUWT senior vice president and the union's Oxfordshire Federation Secretary, said:"These proposals are unjustified and will leave members significantly worse off in retirement.

"All teachers are entitled to a decent pension and the NASUWT urges the employer to recognise the strength of feeling and rethink its plans."

Teddies is not the first independent school to propose withdrawing from the scheme since the rise was announced.

Private schools need government permission to join the TPS but can leave when they want, by writing to the education secretary.