TPS: 107 independent schools quit after costs soar

Number of independent schools withdrawing from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme continues to rise

The stream of independent schools exiting the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) shows no sign of slowing, after a freedom of information (FOI) request revealed another 27 schools have quit the plan since September 2019.

Contributions to the TPS increased from 16.5% to 23.6% in September 2018 after the Treasury changed the rate at which liabilities for public sector pension schemes are calculated.

The Treasury has agreed to cover the extra cost of TPS for schools in the state sector, but some small independent schools have struggled to meet the increasingly heavy financial burden of pension contributions, forcing many to quit the scheme altogether.

A total of 107 schools have notified the Department for Education (DfE) of their intention to withdraw from the TPS since September 2018, the FOI request by Wesleyan has revealed.

That figure has risen by 27 since the beginning of the 2019/20 academic year, representing a 34% increase in just six months. 

In response to a National Education Union FOI, the Department of Education confirmed there were 1,171 independent schools in England and Wales in the TPS as of 31 March 2019. The number of independent schools quitting the scheme is now nearing 10% of the total.

Read more: TPS strikes: independent sector responds to union threat

Strike action: where are we now?

Strike action was averted recently at The Grange School in Hartford, Cheshire, after governors agreed to drop plans to exit the TPS.

In a letter to parents last month, chair of governors Karen Williams said: “The cost of teachers’ pensions is one of a number of significant financial risks facing The Grange and other independent schools, which we must address collectively as a whole community.

“Maintaining the current level of employer contributions means that we need to reconsider how to afford the additional costs of £340,000 per year that this entails.”

Strike action was also averted at Westholme School in Blackburn, Lancashire after an agreement was reached.

The main difficulty is that the employer contribution is funded by the taxpayer in state sector schools whereas in independent schools it comes straight out of the fees that you pay
– Richard Russell, Colfe’s School

Attention has since turned to Colfe’s School, Greenwich, where teachers voted to go on strike over proposals to take the school out of the TPS. Staff took to the picket lines yesterday.

In a letter to parents, headmaster Richard Russell said: “I don’t think it is controversial to predict that the TPS will become unaffordable for the majority of independent schools.

“More than 100 independents have already left the scheme and many more are going through a period of consultation, as Colfe’s continues to do. The main difficulty is that the employer contribution is funded by the taxpayer in state sector schools whereas in independent schools it comes straight out of the fees that you pay.”

Kevin Courtney, NEU joint general secretary, said: “It really is a momentous occasion when independent school staff take strike action, and it is testament to the severity of the issue.

“Our hard-working members are committed to the success of their pupils and their school. When they feel that they have no alternative but to strike, it should serve as a wake-up call for independent sector employers.

“NEU members desperately wish to resolve the matter amicably but believe that leaving the TPS would be a significant blow in the school’s ability to attract and retain quality teaching staff. For many NEU members working in the independent sector, leaving the TPS is a deal-breaker.”

When they feel that they have no alternative but to strike, it should serve as a wake-up call for independent sector employers
– Kevin Courtney, NEU

In June 2019, staff at St Edward’s School, Oxford, went on a two-day strike in protest over the decision to withdraw from the TPS.

‘For some, the numbers simply don’t add up’

Parminder Gill at Wesleyan, a specialist financial services mutual for teachers, said: “The news that 107 independent schools have opted to leave the Teachers’ Pension Scheme is a concerning statistic.

“Independent schools are having to look more closely at their budgets, and examine options like increasing fees, to establish if they can afford to maintain their membership of the TPS.  For some, the numbers simply don’t add up.

“When the 40% increase in contributions took effect in September last year, some independent schools adopted a wait and see approach, but now many are deciding to walk away from the scheme all together.

“We have seen an increase in demand from schools who want to give their staff transparency about the situation. If an independent school withdraws from the TPS, it is essential that teachers understand what this means for them and their long-term retirement plans.

“While retirement may feel like a long way off for some, it is worth noting that very few schemes will be as generous as the TPS because it is guaranteed retirement income, directly linked to a teacher’s salary and service with clear employer and employee contributions outlined.

“Contributions and retirement income of alternative schemes that many teachers will be exploring are less certain and can add more complexities to retirement planning.”

It is worth noting that very few schemes will be as generous as the TPS because it is guaranteed retirement income, directly linked to a teacher’s salary and service
– Parminder Gill, Wesleyan

You might also like: Teachers’ Pension Scheme: should I stay or should I go?

The 107 independent schools withdrawing from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme are:

Abercorn School, Westminster

Aldro School, Surrey

Arnold Lodge School, Warwickshire

Ashdown House School, East Sussex

Avenue House School, Ealing

Barfield School, Surrey

Beaudesert Park School, Gloucestershire

Birchfield School, Shropshire

Boundary Oak School, Hampshire

British School in the Netherlands

Brooke Priory School, Rutland

Bruern Abbey School, Oxfordshire

Castle Court Preparatory School, Dorset

Castle House School, Telford and Wrekin

Cheam School, Hampshire

Chepstow House School, Kensington and Chelsea

Claires Court Schools, Windsor and Maidenhead

Copthorne Preparatory School, Surrey

Cothill House, Oxfordshire

Cricklade Manor Prep School, Wiltshire

Croft Preparatory School, Warwickshire

Derby Grammar School, Derby

Dolphin School, Wokingham

Dover College, Kent

Dulwich Prep Cranbrook, Kent

Ealing Independent College, Ealing

Edenhurst Preparatory School, Staffordshire

Edge Grove School, Hertfordshire

Elmhurst School, Croydon

Eurocentres, Bournemouth

Eurocentres, Brighton

Eurocentres, Cambridge

Eurocentres, Lee Green

Eurocentres, London Victoria

Exeter Cathedral School, Devon

Falcons Pre Preparatory School for Boys, Hounslow

Falcons Preparatory School for Boys, Richmond upon Thames

Falcons School for Girls, Wandsworth

Farlington School, West Sussex

Great Ballard School, Wes Sussex

Greenbank Preparatory School, Stockport

Hanford School, Dorset

Hatherop Castle School, Gloucestershire

Heathfield Knoll, Worcestershire

Heywood Prep, Wiltshire

Highfield and Brookham Schools, West Sussex

Hilden Grange School, Kent

Holme Grange School, Wokingham

Holmwood House School, Essex

Horris Hill School, Hampshire

International School of London, Surrey

Kitebrook Preparatory School, Oxfordshire

Lockers Park School, Hertfordshire

Longridge Towers School, Northumberland

Luckley House School, Wokingham

Marymount International School, Kingston upon Thames

The Mead School, Kent

Mowden Hall School, Northumberland

Oswestry School, Shropshire

Park School, Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

Pembridge Hall School, Kensington and Chelsea

Plumtree School, Nottinghamshire

Plymouth College, Plymouth

Portland Place School, Westminster

Princes Mead School, Hampshire

Redhill High School, Pembrokeshire

Rookwood School, Hampshire

Rupert House School, Oxfordshire

Rydes Hill Preparatory School, Surrey

Salisbury Cathedral School, Wiltshire

Sandroyd School, Wiltshire

Scarborough College, North Yorkshire

Sherborne House School, Hampshire

Sherfield School, Hampshire

Sinclair House School, Hammersmith and Fulham

Skippers Hill Manor School, East Sussex

Spring Grove School 2003 Ltd, Kent

St Anthony’s Preparatory School, Camden

St Anthony’s School for Girls, Barnet

St Christophers School, Devon

St David’s Prep, Bromley

St Edward’s Prep, Reading

St Edward’s School, Oxfordshire

St Faith’s At Ash School Limited, Kent

St Margaret’s School, Camden

St Peter’s School (Sunnylands Ltd), Northamptonshire

Steephill School, Kent

Stoke College, Suffolk

Sunningdale School, Windsor and Maidenhead

Firs School, Cheshire West and Chester

Gesher Primary Special School, Brent

The Hampshire School, Chelsea, Kensington and Chelsea

The Webber Independent School, Milton Keynes

Thetford Grammar School, Norfolk

Twyford School, Hampshire

Wandsworth Preparatory School, Wandsworth

Waverley School, Wokingham

West Hill Park School, Hampshire

Westonbirt School, Gloucestershire

Westville House School, Bradford

Wetherby Kensington, Kensington and Chelsea

Wetherby Preparatory School, Westminster

Wetherby School, Kensington and Chelsea

Wetherby Senior School, Westminster

White Trees Independent School, Essex

Witham Hall School, Lincolnshire

Wychwood School, Oxfordshire

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