Staff at a school in St Albans are set to strike later this week over pension eligibility.

Teachers at St Columba’s College are taking industrial action on Wednesday and Thursday morning, over the college's "attempts to worsen" the terms and conditions of eligible staff on the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.

"Members do not want to be forced into a position of having to strike," said NEU Regional Secretary Paul McLaughlin.

"Sadly, the governors have repeatedly ignored the views of our members and have made it clear they do not want to negotiate a settlement to the dispute.

"Worsening the terms and conditions of eligible staff in respect of membership of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, by making members either, join what we believe is an inferior scheme, or pay for future employer contribution rates out of future salary increases, is not acceptable and members are standing up for their rights."

Shaun Howard, from the NEU Independent Schools Officer Hertfordshire District, said: "It really is a sad occasion when independent school staff take strike action, and it is proof to the severity of the issue.

"Our dedicated, hard-working members are committed to the success of St Columba’s students and the future of the College. They feel that they have no alternative but to strike, in order to protect the future of the school as well as their own families.

"NEU members desperately wish to resolve the matter amicably but believe that changes in the TPS would be a significant blow in the school’s ability to attract and retain quality teaching staff."

In a statement, a spokesperson for St Columba's College blamed rising contributions for the Teacher Pension Scheme as the cause of the strike, and that the college was trying to find a "sensible balance" during consultations.

"Independent schools, like ourselves, are being put in a very difficult position," they said.

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"Teacher Pension Scheme contributions have already risen from 16.4 per cent to 23.68 per cent in 2019, and the Treasury has advised schools that the direction of travel is a further increase to about 28 per cent to 30 per cent.

"These rises are both out of our control and very challenging to manage – particularly when so many other costs are also increasing. Over 300 similar schools have made the decision to leave the TPS, with many more planning to do so.

"Our staff are hugely important to us. Throughout the consultation process we have sought to work with them to recognise their value to the school whilst also reflecting on the pressures that schools are facing. That is why we are trying to find a sensible balance.

"Our existing staff will be able to remain in the TPS, and we are exploring the possibility of increasing our contributions to 25 per cent for those who remain in the scheme. However, any further increases after that would need to be funded by salary increases. New staff will join a different pension scheme.

"The reality is we simply can’t continue to fund ongoing uncapped pension increases without it having a very significant impact. As Governors, our role is to look at how we can best meet the needs of our existing pupils while ensuring we are still here to educate children for generations to come. 

"We are grateful that so many of our staff have understood the school’s position and have opted not to strike. If the strike proceeds, we will continue to ensure our students are able to come to school and continue to learn."