An indicative ballot starts today of National Education Union members at the independent sector school group, the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) over their plans to withdraw from the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS). It is the first ever national ballot on strike action in GDST 149-year history, which shows the depth of feeling and anger this proposal has created amongst staff. The NEU is the recognised trade union for all staff across the 23 independent schools run by the GDST, with 65% of the teaching staff in membership.  

The TPS is a fundamental part of a teacher's contractual remuneration. For many teachers in the Trust, not being in the TPS is a deal-breaker. The proposal would leave remuneration in Trust schools significantly worse than local state schools. It is likely that there will be a talent drain from Trust schools as teachers and leaders are forced to leave to protect their retirement. 

Teachers are also shocked by the Trust’s threat to “fire and rehire” them in order to enforce the contractual change. NEU members have regarded the Trust as a good employer. However, the service of legal notice of the Trust’s intention to use the morally objectionable practice of “fire and rehire” has left that reputation in jeopardy. 

The NEU is committed to consultation and hope that we can persuade the Trust that withdrawing from the TPS is a strategic mistake. We believe not only is it a significant pay cut for teachers but would also damage the ability of the schools to recruit and retain quality teachers in future. 

GDST initiated a consultation on withdrawal from the TPS this September but has not provided any documentary evidence to substantiate their claim that the TPS is unaffordable. 

NEU members in over 60 other independent schools have successfully defended their hard-earned pension through collective action, up to and including strike action. 

The indicative ballot runs from 22 November - 6 December. (1) 

Commenting on the move to an indicative ballot in all 23 schools, Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

"The proposal by the Girls' Day School Trust to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) is an unnecessary decision.   

"There is no imperative reason to leave the scheme. The Trust's finances are healthy as can be seen in their public accounts. No evidence to the contrary has been provided to staff or their recognised union, the NEU. 

"To add insult to injury, at the very start of the consultation the employer served legal notice of their intention to 'fire and rehire' teachers who do not accept the new pension proposals. 

"Our members are aggrieved that they worked so hard during the pandemic to maintain girls’ education, earning the gratitude of parents, and this is their reward.  

"We continue to engage with the employer and sincerely hope we can persuade the Trust to withdraw their plan to remove our members' pension rights under the Teachers' Pension Scheme." 

Editor's note: 

  1. The question put on the indicative ballot reads as follows: "Are you prepared to take part in sustained and discontinuous strike action in furtherance of this dispute? Employer’s proposal to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme."