Teacher strikes called off at Stonyhurst College after last-minute offer

Teacher strikes at a historic boarding school have been called off after an agreement was reached over pensions.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 9:33 am
A teacher is pictured at the NEU picket in front of Stonyhurst College, Clitheroe on Thursday (April 15). Further strike action has now been called off after the College made an improved pensions offer.

Several teachers at Stonyhurst College, near Clitheroe, went on strike last Thursday (April 15) due to proposed changes to pension contributions.

Negotiations had been ongoing for several months and, in March, members of the National Education Union (NEU) voted for industrial action.

Further strikes were due to take place today (April 21) and tomorrow (April 22) but have now been called off as a result of an agreement between the college and teachers.

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A spokesperson for the National Education Union's north west branch, which represents some of the Stonyhurst teachers, said: "Members received a further offer on Monday [April 19] from Stonyhurst management and, after consultation with the membership, a decision has been made following a vote to accept the confirmed new offer.

"Therefore, as a result of this decision, the Union has notified the Chair of Governors that further action has been withdrawn and no action will be taken on Wednesday by members."

Teachers were previously unhappy with suggestions that they should make increased contributions to their pensions under the TPS (Teachers' Pension Scheme) which the NEU viewed as a 'significant paycut'.

Now a compromise has been reached for a 'hybrid' scheme according to the NEU spokesperson.

Stonyhurst teachers will make some contributions rather than withdrawing completely or gradually transitioning out of the TPS; offers that were previously on the table.

"The offer is still that of a hybrid scheme for the TPS and not specifically a no detriment to members," said the spokesperson, "however it is a vastly improved offer to that proposed at the end of the consultation period in December."

John Browne, headteacher of Stonyhurst and Ian Murphy, Headteacher of Stonyhurst Saint Mary’s Hall, said: “We are pleased that there will be no further strike action as a mutually acceptable agreement was reached between Governors and the National Education Union (NEU) yesterday (April 20).

“The agreement includes a two year guaranteed arrangement from September 21 to August 23 whereby teachers can choose between Teachers’ Pension Scheme contributions and / or pay rises.

"This agreement is within the pre-agreed budget parameters.

“With the agreement reached, we believe we can now look forward to enjoying the summer term ahead and to refocusing on the education and support of our children and young people.”

The headteachers previously said that the TPS was 'unsustainable' and would 'significantly impact Stonyhurst's offer to pupils and their families'.

This follows a number of teacher strikes across the country since the government increased employer's contributions to the TPS scheme in 2019.

Stonyhurst College claimed that the increase was costing it an additional £320,000 a year.