More House School in Frensham has agreed to delay until 2024 unpopular changes to pensions which striking teachers say will result in a real-terms pay cut.
But the ‘outstanding’ rated special school has refused to budge on its plan to withdraw from the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS), raising the prospect of further strike action next term.
In a letter to parents and carers, More House chair of governors Glenn Handley acknowledged the “exceptional contribution” of teachers at the school.
However, he added governors face a “huge number of challenges” including inflation and rising costs, and the need to invest in infrastructure such as replacing its wooden science classrooms and expanding its sixth form to meet demand.
The school is currently using its reserves to remain operational, he said. And while governors are considering new funding sources and increasing fees, “they are not enough on their own”.
“We can’t simply pass on all costs to families and the local authorities,” Mr Handley added.
After consultation with teachers and the National Education Union, governors say they have met two of three points requested by staff. This includes delaying More House’s withdrawal from the TPS until 2024.
However, Mr Handley said governors are not able to agree “at this point” to continue to fund the current TPS pension cost at 23.68 per cent of teachers’ annual salary – standing by their decision to reduce pension contributions to 18.5 per cent.
As a result, the National Education Union says the delay will merely give teachers wishing to leave the school more time to find alternative employment.
And the union has dished out further criticism after a decision by teachers to call off the final day of strike action last term “to support students and families” was not acknowledged in writing by the headteacher or governors.
Laurence Rose, regional development officer for the National Education Union, South East Region, said: “There are a significant number of concerned parents and they have written to head and governors in support of teachers requesting a meeting in order to bring an end to the dispute.
“Parents have written to local constituency MP Jeremy Hunt in support of the teachers and have started a petition. Teachers are overwhelmed by the generosity of support and kindness shown by parents.
“While strikes go on nationally in many different sectors for improved pay and conditions, it is important to note staff at More House have never asked for more, they have only asked not to have less.”
Of the 73 More House staff members the union says are affected by the pension changes, 37 took strike action (51 per cent). Of the remaining staff one was on long term sickness, one was on maternity leave, ten are leadership or extended leadership (29 per cent) and seven (20 per cent) have now left the school.