Teachers at St. Augustine's Priory, Ealing, 2023

Protecting independent school teachers' pensions

We will support members opposing any proposal to remove teachers’ membership of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).

The 2019 employer contribution increase to the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS) saw a sizeable number of independent sector school employers withdraw from the scheme. 

Since then NEU members in many independent schools have successfully defeated their employer’s proposals to deprive them of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

You have shown that we can win. 

Now, we need to redouble our efforts as, unfortunately, things have just got tougher.

The employer contribution rate for the TPS is increasing on 1st April 2024 from 23.6% to 28.6%.  The scale of the increase was unexpected and is in part due to wholly unnecessary decisions by government.  Employers are claiming that the increase is unaffordable. For some this will be true but for others it is a choice.

Our strategy learnt from the TPS Campaign has stood us in good stead: act early; act as the NEU; use the leverage of strike action.

However, the scale of the threat means that we need to sharpen our tactics. Wherever possible, we need to be on the front foot. 

You can play your part. 

Start the conversation with NEU members in your school now. Before the employer takes any steps, consider passing a motion stating staff will vote on strike action if pay is cut in real terms, pension is threatened, or workload increased. 

Raise general awareness amongst your colleagues. Be ready to use the action plan below.

It is not going to be easy. But, together, we can win and improve outcomes.

Play video Protecting independent teachers' pensions

Why is TPS worth fighting for?

Take action

Member success comes from early collective union response backed by the possibility of industrial action. Others have learnt the hard way that action cannot be left until the end of a consultation that can be just a tick-box exercise. Some members have found their loyalty no defense against fire and rehire practices.

  • Get together with fellow NEU members. Your strength is in the union.
  • This should be led by the NEU rep. If there is not one in your workplace, talk to other members and volunteer to be a rep! Better still get together a small NEU rep team.
  • Read the NEU rep successes stories. Make sure colleagues are aware that NEU members have successfully defended their TPS in over 80 independent schools. 
  • Discuss strengthening the staff voice through trade union recognition. 
  • Ask colleagues not in a union, to join the NEU. 
  • It is important to put down a marker right from the off. Give no encouragement to the employer that staff will meekly accept the detrimental change.
  • Do not enter any discussion of alternative schemes until the option staying in the TPS has been fully examined and exhausted. 
  • The NEU regional office can provide legal advice and practical support
  • As and when appropriate, they will organise balloting of the members
  • Find your regional office.
  • If you are the rep, join the NEU independent sector Rep Pay Campaign WhatsApp Group.
  • Experienced reps will be able to provide great support, advice, and encouragement. 
  • Talk to your regional rep on the NEU National Council independent sector. 
  • Speak to the NEU reps at local or comparable independent schools. 
  • Use the NEU model TPS campaign letters to make robust representations. 
  • Consider passing a motion stating staff will vote on strike action if pay is cut in real terms, pension is threatened, or workload increased. 
  • If your employer is talking about the possibility of leaving, make sure they know how strongly staff feel by using the NEU Model letter opposing withdrawal from TPS.
  • If they are instigating formal consultation on leaving, use the NEU Model letter seeking meaningful consultation on TPS
  • Adapt the NEU model request for full disclosure of all relevant information. This includes full detail on the school’s finances; business case; decision-making process to date.
  • If the NEU is the recognised union, then the employer must negotiate with NEU reps. 
  • If not, request that the NEU is formally involved. 
  • If staff representatives are elected, ensure that NEU members are prominent. 
  • As appropriate, act in liaison with other unions, the common room, or pay group. 
  • If the employer has instigated consultation, meet with the leadership team. 
  • Demand the full disclosure of all relevant information to enable you to ask informed questions, propose informed suggestions, and make informed decisions. 
  • Examine the finances and suggest alternative ways to meet the cost. 
  • Ask your employer what they intend to do if staff do not agree. Draconian tactics such as fire and rehire damage school reputation with staff and parents.

NEU members in other independent schools have learnt that the threat of industrial action is often the leverage necessary for a successful outcome: 

  • In the first instance, members should consider asking the regional office to conduct an indicative ballot. Often this is sufficient for the employer to change their mind.
  • If not, move to a formal strike ballot. This has also proved to be effective.
  • In a few cases, members have been forced to take strike with some notable success.
  • Even where it has not been possible to retain the TPS, members have found that the leverage of potential strike action has helped secure improvements to the offer. 
  • At the end of the consultation, should you decide that the school really cannot afford the TPS, then try to negotiate improvements to alternative offer. 
  • Engage with parents. Enlist their support.
  • Parents are appreciative of the staff who educate and look after their child. Members have found most parents supportive, even when taking strike action.
  • One of the main reasons that parents pay schools fees is the quality of the staff and the time spent knowing and developing their child.
  • If the school no longer offers the TPS, then its ability to attract and retain high quality teachers will be adversely affected. It is likely that there will be higher staff turn-over.
  • As part of a considered campaign, adapt the NEU model letter to parents. Ask them to write to the governing body, or proprietor. Consider calling an open meeting with parents.

Fire and rehire

There is a growing trend amongst employers to resort to the draconian practice of sacking staff and then re-employing them on worse terms and conditions. 

NEU members have faced this unacceptable threat in many employment scenarios. For members working in the independent sector, the use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics has become the default position for employers trying to take away their Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

The NEU believe that fire and rehire should have no place in employee relations in the 21st century. 

Hands off our pensions - TPS campaign logo

TPS mythbuster

Some of the common disinformation used by employers to justify leaving the Teachers Pension scheme' (TPS).

Model letters

Model TPS campaign letter to parents

If there is a proposal to remove teachers' membership of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS), engage with parents. Adapt this model letter to enlist their support.

Pension plans explained

Why TPS?

A comparison of the outcomes from a defined contribution (DC) pension compared to TPS career average. Many independent schools participate in the TPS, although some offer their own schemes.

Play video Independent school reps successfully prevented their employer leaving the TPS video

Winning on TPS

Alice & Shelly, Eastern Region NEU Independent school reps, successfully prevented their employer leaving the TPS. Persistence and working with the whole school community were key to their success.

Independent schools in the TPS

A Freedom of Information Request confirmed that the vast majority of independent schools remain in the TPS.

WhatsApp logo

NEU independent sector workplace reps

Join our WhatsApp community to discuss the pay campaign, defending the TPS and support staff issues.

Apply to join
We are the NEU. Join Us.

Not yet a member?

Join the largest education union in Europe. Free for trainee teachers or just £1 in your first year teaching after qualifying.

Join now
Back to top