MORE than 60 teachers at a private school are on strike today to protest controversial pension plans. 

Members of the National Education Union have formed a small picket line outside St Edward's School in Oxford this morning, contesting the respected school's proposal to pull out of the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

Read the full background here

A further 21 teachers are also expected to strike tomorrow at the Summertown school, as part of the NASUWT teaching union's own strike.

Teachers held placards outside the school entrance in Woodstock Road this morning, stating: "Hands off our pension."

Diane Wilson, joint district secretary of the NEU's Oxfordshire branch, said: "Teachers working at the school see their pension as deferred salary, set aside to support them after years of service to students whose lives they have worked hard to enrich.

"They feel insulted that the governors have refused to listen to their request to remain in the TPS and are likely to change their contracts of employment and offer an inferior pension.

"This situation has arisen due to the government’s insistence that independent schools, as employers, should make a greater contribution to the TPS."

She said school leaders and governors had given 'mixed and somewhat misleading messages to the school community' to justify leaving the scheme.

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Ms Wilson added: "Some independent schools within Oxfordshire have taken a different decision by choosing to remain in the TPS.

"They rightly see the TPS as a highly portable scheme that allows teachers to move between the independent, maintained and academy sectors, but also to help stem the current crisis in teacher recruitment and retention."

She said the decision to strike was 'not taken lightly' and the union hopes to resolve the 'crisis' to avert further action.

Earlier this week the warden (head) of Teddies explained the reasoning behind the pension change and said: "All pupils will be involved in meaningful activities during the period of industrial action and our high standards of care will not be compromised."

The school has said the rising cost of pension contributions - an 'unprecedented' 43 per cent hike - is a 'huge extra financial burden' which has 'no positive effect on the pensions our teachers will receive.'

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

"[We] 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."

He said governors firmly believe the decision is in the school's best interests, and that the school has listened to teachers' concerns and delayed timing of the withdrawal by 12 months at their request.