By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter
Teachers from private schools in Croydon and Sutton walked out of classrooms for a third day today in a dispute over pensions.
Members of National Education Union dismissed an appeasment move by the Girls’ Day School Trust as they took strike action for the first time in the trust’s 149-year history.
Croydon High School and Sutton High are run by the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) and it proposes leaving the teachers’ pension scheme and moving to a different one.
This week, GDST trustees announced it would stay in the pension scheme (TPS) for a longer time than initially proposed, until September 2023, and award all staff a pay rise.
But the National Education Union (NEU) dismissed this as being a “short-term financial sweetener”.
Teachers took the first strike action in 149 years of the trust alongside other schools run by GDST.
It runs a total of 23 schools, including Sydenham High School and Bromley High School. It was the third of six days planned over the next month.
Some teachers protested outside Parliament and Sutton teachers were joined by MP for Sutton and Cheam and minister for London, Paul Scully.
He tweeted: “The TPS is becoming harder to fund for independent schools but it’s vital that schools value their staff and treat them fairly.”
But GDST said it was “unsustainable” to remain a member of the TPS since the government raised the rate of employers’ contribution, meaning it costs the trust £6 million a year extra.
The trust said it was offering an alternative pension scheme with a 20 per cent employer contribution alongside other benefits.
A spokesperson said they were “disappointed” strike action was not called off which they said caused “unnecessary disruption for students and teachers”.
They said: “We care deeply about our teachers and would not have put forward these proposals unless we felt they were necessary to support the long-term sustainability of the GDST family of schools, enabling us to continue to provide an excellent and affordable independent education for students, and at the same time offering teachers a comfortable retirement.”
Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU, said she was disappointed the withdrawal from the TPS has not been reversed.
She said: “If they were really listening to the strength of feeling from their staff, they would realise that short-term financial sweeteners offer no compensation for the long-term security of the TPS.
“The NEU will of course enter the negotiations with GDST which we have been asking for. However, this offer gives our members no reassurance that the TPS will remain in place.”
Pictured top: Sutton High School teachers on strike over changes to staff pensions (image: Sheldon Vestey)