PARENT FAQ – GDST proposed changes to teachers’ pensions


Why has the GDST put forward these proposals?

  • We care deeply about our teaching staff and value their incredible contribution to students in our schools. Sadly, the increase to the TPS employer costs (Teachers’ Pension Scheme) has had a severe impact on our expenditure and has put us in a very difficult position. We have had to enter this very sensitive consultation process with our teachers because it is absolutely necessary for the long-term sustainability of all our schools.
  • A 43% increase in employer contributions to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) in 2019 has left the GDST – in fact, all independent schools in the UK – with a steep increase in employer contributions from 16.48% to 23.68% of teachers’ salaries (an extra cost of £6m each year). This increase funded the TPS scheme, but did not result in increased benefit to teachers’ pensions.
  • The government has covered this rise in the maintained sector but independent schools must deal with this additional burden on their own. Over 300 independent schools have left or are planning to leave the TPS, with many more in consultation to do so.
  • We need to invest in all schools across the GDST family – across staff, teaching resources and classrooms, without making fees unaffordable.
  • Our teachers and staff are our most important asset, and this is reflected in the fact that 75% of our expenditure in schools is on our people. Their passion and dedication are the driving force behind our students’ education. We have an outstanding professional development programme and are committed to remaining an outstanding place to work.
  • We understand the impact the proposals have on our valued teaching staff and that is why we have undertaken a detailed and transparent consultation process with them and our recognised trade union, the National Education Union (NEU).


Why is this an issue across the independent schools sector? 

  • We are by no means the only organisation in the independent sector to be wrestling with these challenges and seeking alternative pension arrangements for teachers.
  • Nearly two-thirds of independent schools are not in the TPS, and to-date over 300 have left or have given notice to leave since the uplift in employer contributions to 23.68% in 2019. This includes in the region of 30 independent schools having left the scheme since GDST began consultation with our teaching staff, and around a further 170 schools currently undergoing consultation to leave.
  • This article from Pensions Expert sets out the reasons why independent schools are doing this and the approaches they have taken.


What is the updated proposal that the GDST has put forward to teachers?

  • GDST has tabled a revised offer to the NEU which we believe to be extremely beneficial to teachers and which addresses all their needs. This final offer includes the option for teachers to choose continued membership of the TPS, or join the GDST Flexible Pension Plan, which we know some teachers would choose. Both options include a pay rise and, in effect, give teachers a choice over how they receive their total reward.
  • We cannot make public further detail about teacher pay rises because this is personal information and confidential.


Why hasn’t the NEU accepted this? 

  • We believe sincerely that we have gone to considerable efforts to meet the teachers requests and that the option of staying in the TPS with a pay rise should meet their demands.
  • Some teachers do want to join the GDST Flexible Pensions Scheme and we want to allow them that choice.
  • Our offer to teachers is sector-leading and provides real choice.
  • We need to meet our goal of long-term sustainability of our family of schools, enabling us to continue to provide an excellent, affordable education for our students, and the two options will allow us to do that.


What action is the GDST taking to resolve this?

  • The GDST has met with the NEU on a regular basis over the last five months and a number of meetings have been held in the last week
  • The GDST has tabled a number of revised offers which we believe meet teachers’ concerns and the original ask of the NEU.
  • This includes the option of staying in the TPS with a pay rise.
  • We are now providing teachers with detailed information about the two options available to them and tools that they can use to see how the total reward (the combination of pay increases and benefits) plays out over each option.
  • A formula is in place to make sure parity is always achieved across both options so that teachers can have the confidence that, whatever option they choose, they will receive an equal benefit.
  • The GDST Trustees have welcomed the opportunity of ACAS collective conciliation talks with the NEU which are due to start the week commencing 7th March. On this basis, the NEU has agreed to suspend strike action whilst talks take place, so that all our teachers can return to the classroom.
  • We are approaching the ACAS collective conciliation talks with confidence that we can move forward from this point and find a way through this together. The important thing is that all GDST teachers will return to their classrooms whilst these talks proceed, as the education of our students is our priority.


What steps have the GDST taken to make sure teachers’ voices are heard?

  • We respect our teachers’ opinions, and we want to handle this difficult situation in a sensitive way. We know that this process is difficult for them and will continue to listen to their concerns at every stage.
  • We have undertaken a full and transparent consultation – in full compliance with the terms of the recognised trade union, the NEU.
  • We have spoken to staff face to face at every school and provided staff with advice from independent experts.
  • There has never been a predetermined outcome to this consultation. We wanted to have full transparency with teachers and the NEU, so we notified them at the start of collective consultation of a section 188 letter indicating that there may be a potential contractual change. However, under the new offer so-called ‘fire and rehire’ is off the table’.


Why is it taking place now? 

  • The government implemented the increase in 2019. However, teachers have been under unprecedented pressure during covid, and that is why we have not undertaken this pensions consultation until this academic year.
  • During the same time, we have also implemented fee reductions and fee freezes because we recognise that it has been a very difficult time for everyone and there have been periods when schools have had to use Guided Home Learning.


Is the TPS that the GDST are offering the same as the original TPS?

  • Yes. The conditions under which the TPS is offered remain exactly the same with employer contributions staying the same at 23.68%.
  • A formula is in place to ensure parity is maintained in the cost of the total reward for our teachers and so that teachers can have the confidence that, whichever option they choose, they will have full transparency of what is available to them. The choice can also be made later if they want to move from the TPS to the GDST Flexible Pension Plan. An individually tailored illustration tool is now being made available to teachers to help them make their decision.


Strike days – practical information


How will the school prepare my child for a disrupted day?

  • The GDST has worked closely with Heads to ensure that students continue to learn effectively and take part in meaningful educational activities.

How will the school make sure that safeguarding standards continue to be met?

  • Safeguarding and wellbeing considerations remain foremost in any alternative provision made on otherwise disrupted days.

How will the school maintain covid safety if they are collapsing classes or doing whole year group activities?

  • Our schools have, in every iteration of the covid crisis, developed ways of working that conform to health and safety regulations and carefully weigh risks and mitigations; and it will be no different on these days.

Will I receive a fee rebate for the striking days?  

  • GDST is working closely with our schools to ensure students continue to learn effectively during this time. Circumstances will vary across schools and year groups. We will assess the situation and impact on students in each school and will communicate with you at the end of the Spring Term around any potential adjustments to fees. This adjustment will also reflect any cancellation of lunches and transport.