Teachers at Notting Hill & Ealing High School step up strike action

Image above: Notting Hill & Ealing High School; photograph Google street view

Five days of strikes this week and next

Teachers at Notting Hill & Ealing High School are taking strike action against the Girls Day Schools Trust decision to withdraw from the Teachers Pension Scheme.

Staff who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) have already taken one day of strike action on 10 February and are due to step up the strike this week, by not working on Wednesday 23 and Thursday 24 February and again next week on Tuesday 1, Wednesday 2 and Thursday 3 March.

Parents at the school, which costs £6,600 a term, say the strike action is affecting their daughters’ exam preparation and are worried it will affect their A Level results.

The Girls Day School Trust (GDST) is a group of 23 independent girls’ schools, which include Putney High and Wimbledon High as well as Notting Hill & Ealing. The Trust is proposing to remove its teaching staff from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, which they say is necessary because of the financial situation it finds itself in.

They say the 43%  increase in employer contributions implemented by the government in 2019 “has had a severe impact on our expenditure and has put us in a very difficult position.”

CEO Cheryl Giovannoni said while they understood the strength of feeling amongst teachers, withdrawing from the scheme is “absolutely necessary to support the long-term sustainability of the GDST family of schools.”

They are proposing an alternative pension scheme, which will involve them making a smaller contribution.

Image above: Notting Hill & Ealing High School; photograph Google street view

“We have to stand up for our rights”

The NEU says its members will lose at least 20% the pension they were expecting to receive in retirement.

“Teachers don’t go into the career for the money. The pension is one of the attractions of the job” a spokesperson for the NEU told The Chiswick Calendar.

A ballot of NEU members resulted in 95% of teacher members at GDST schools voting in favour of strike action, an unprecedented and overwhelming vote in favour of action, showing the strength of feeling amongst teachers. The strike is the first in the Trust’s entire 149-year history.

The Union says The Trust has been “unable and unwilling” to demonstrate any financial imperative for this decision. Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The Girls’ Day School Trust has no justification in its plan to slash the pensions of its teaching staff. This will be a disaster for staff, for future recruitment and for pupils.”

Teachers on the picket line on the first day of strike said: “The GDST don’t care about us. We love our school, but this is our future.”

Another said colleagues would be £2,000 worse off a year:

“We’ve worked our socks off, all the way through Covid. We didn’t get a pay rise last year because we were told the GDST couldn’t afford it, yet the CEO got a pay rise. We can’t go any further because we can’t end up living off the state because we haven’t got a proper pension. It’s not just acceptable.

“It’s been a really difficult decision but we’ve decided we have to stand up for our rights. We’re determined we want a fair pension for the work we put in.”

In all, 1,500 teaching staff are expected to take part in 23 schools.

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