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Staff at an independent school have successfully fought to retain their Teachers’ Pension Scheme after nearly trebling their NASUWT membership.

These teachers were wrongly told by school leaders that the TPS was about to go bust, so they were at risk of losing their contributions.

It was suggested they should withdraw their funds and join the school’s private pension scheme instead, which has a much lower rate of employer contributions.

But the school’s NASUWT Rep urged members to challenge these false claims and fight to keep their TPS.

The Rep informed members that the TPS is safe because it is underwritten by the Government, and that they could actually lose a lot of money by leaving early.

“I told everybody to log on to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme website and use the calculator to work out how much they would lose,” said the Rep.

“We have got very experienced staff here and many are at the top of the pay scale. They were absolutely horrified by how much they would lose if we left the scheme.

“When I used the calculator I discovered I would lose about £25,000.”

After lots of research and information sharing, the Rep and several other members of staff met with the head teacher.

They were able to refute claims that the TPS was at risk of going bust and prove that teachers would be much worse off swapping to a private pension.

They also showed that the school’s finances were sufficient to continue making its employer contributions to the TPS.

In the meantime, membership of the NASUWT nearly trebled because the teachers were so worried about the huge impact of leaving the scheme.

They voiced their opposition to the plan at a whole-school meeting organised by the head teacher.

Afterwards, members were informed that school leaders had decided to retain the TPS until the next review.

“Our members were absolutely delighted that the head and governors had listened to how important our pensions were to us and made the morally right decision,” said the Rep.

“We had discussed striking and all of those types of things, but luckily we didn’t have to go that far.

“We weren’t militant about it, just very factual. We were being told inaccurate information and we were able to provide them with the truth.”

Nevertheless, teachers at some other independent schools have lost their TPS since employer contributions rose in September 2019.

The Government has agreed to cover the increased contribution rates for state schools, but private schools must meet these additional costs themselves which is crippling some financially.

In November 2020, the Government also announced that independent schools in England and Wales will be able to opt out of the TPS for future members of staff.

This will undoubtedly have an impact on recruitment for independent schools which choose to do this.

“Teachers want to spend their time and enthusiasm helping students to achieve their potential not fighting to keep their pension,” said the Rep.

“But It’s more important now than ever for teachers at independent schools to join a union if they wish to preserve their terms and conditions.

“Schools cannot ignore employment law or change contracts unilaterally.

“If members all get together behind a common goal, they can challenge these plans and protect their rights and retirement

“If coronavirus has shown anything, it’s that talented teachers who can adapt their teaching are the most valuable asset of any school and this, along with small class sizes, is predominately why parents choose to pay fees.

“If they want to keep these experienced, highly motivated teachers in their schools, employers need to value what is important for their staff and protect their pension and terms and conditions.”

To find out how you can become a rep visit our workplace rep page.

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