Simon Keable-Elliott, NEU rep at a South London School, reports on the successful staff representations which persuaded governors to commit to TPS.

As NEU rep I was really concerned that governors were moving towards deciding to propose leaving the TPS, following the announcement of the increased employers’ contributions from 16.48% to 23.48%.

The idea was first raised during pay discussions back in December 2018. A letter was sent in April 2019 to parents linking a higher than normal fee rise to the increased employer’s contributions to the TPS, and then in June the Governors wrote to teachers saying that the school were committed to staying in the TPS for just the following year.

This term working with another member of the Senior Common Room committee we have worked hard to change governors’ minds. The aim was to prove to the Senior Leadership team the strength of feeling amongst staff and to then to speak to the whole governing body.

The four messages that we wanted to get over were:

  1. That any move from TPS would have a large financial consequence for teachers
  2. That leaving would have a significant impact on retention and recruitment
  3. That the school could afford to stay in the scheme
  4. That very few equivalent schools were planning to leave

We began by making sure teachers were all on our side. Using the NEU information sheets we produced a worked example of an actual teacher at school showing that the final annual pension income was going to be reduced by 35% if the school left the scheme.

We encouraged staff to be honest when the Headmaster asked them their feelings about leaving the TPS at a series of meetings in November.

Next, we organised a meeting with the chair of governors to put forward our views. The Headmaster fed back on the views of staff and using the list obtained by the NEU of schools leaving the TPS we could show there was only one equivalent school to us (a not for profit Independent school for 3 -18s) who were leaving the scheme, (and their staff had gone on strike).

We got all union members to sign a letter modelled on the NEU letter which we presented to the chair of governors and we made our case on affordability using the free to view charity commission accounts from the last few years.

Following this meeting we pushed for the opportunity to present our case to a full governing body meeting. Once we had an invitation to do so we worked on the schools’ figures and found, looking at the schools’ accounts in more detail, that the suggested cost of leaving the TPS had been inaccurately reported to governors.

In December 2019, we addressed to full governing body meeting, correcting the figures they had on the cost of staying in the scheme and making the case for not leaving the TPS. That evening the Governors wrote to us say the school would stay in the scheme for the foreseeable future.

Ultimately the success of the campaign came down to the support of all teachers. It helped that as both NEU rep and Chair of the Common Room Association I could gather support from everyone but more important was the issue. Pensions is definitely one issue which unites all teachers.