Striking teachers at Abbots Hill School in Hemel pen open letter to parents - read it in full here

Members of NASUWT - The Teachers’ Union - at Abbots Hill School took part in a strike today (Thursday)

By Holly Patel
Thursday, 9th December 2021, 3:32 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th December 2021, 3:34 pm

Striking teachers at Abbots Hill School have produced an open letter to parents.

This morning (Thursday), members of NASUWT - The Teachers’ Union - at Abbots Hill School took part in the first of six planned days of action over a pensions row.

Members say they have been threatened with dismissal unless they sign new contracts that would see them with worse pensions and working conditions.

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Members of NASUWT - The Teachers’ Union - at Abbots Hill School took part in a strike today

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Teachers at Abbots Hill School in Hemel Hempstead to strike in pensions fight

In an open letter to parents on behalf of NEU Teaching staff at Abbot’s Hill School, it says: "The NEU teaching staff at Abbot’s Hill School are keen to communicate directly with parents about why they have taken the very difficult decision to withdraw their labour.

"Teaching is a vocation, but it is not an especially lucrative profession in comparison with other careers we could have followed.

"This is particularly so here, where, in many cases, salaries do not match those of our state sector colleagues. In order to compensate for a comparatively low salary, the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS) provides long-term security for staff and is a way of attracting and retaining the highest quality teaching staff.

Members of NASUWT - The Teachers’ Union - at Abbots Hill School took part in a strike today

"On June 21st, the Governors announced that they wished to withdraw from the TPS and were opening the legally required consultation process on September 1st.

"On the same day, the entire teaching staff at Abbot’s Hill School was served with a Section 188 Notice – the infamous, and highly unethical, “Fire and Rehire” tool, which enables employers to introduce a new contract with significantly worse conditions of employment.

"Staff must either sign the new contract or face dismissal. Members are aggrieved about the timing and insensitivity of the announcement.

"During the pandemic, teachers and support staff worked tirelessly under extremely difficult conditions, transitioning to effective online delivery to maintain the pupils’ education, earning the gratitude of parents.

"Just as we appear to be emerging from the worst of the pandemic, the Governors propose to make a significant cut to teachers’ pensions.

"This comes on top of the gradual erosion of members’ standard of living, brought about by some years of pay freezes and below-inflation pay rises.

"Staff have endured these for the good of the school and more importantly the good of the pupils we serve on the basis that 'at least we have a good pension'. Now, staff are concerned for the future success of Abbot’s Hill.

"The teachers know that if the TPS is not offered, our school’s ability to recruit and retain high quality teachers will inevitably be damaged and this will have an impact on the standards that the pupils will achieve.

"During the three meetings between our elected representatives and the Governors, which constituted the consultation process, it became apparent that the Governors would not consider any outcome other than us signing new contracts by the end of December agreeing to leave the TPS on April 30th.

"There was no willingness on their part to allow a meaningful exploration of alternative options. With the threat of “Fire and Rehire” already in place from the first day of term, the “consultation” clearly placed us, the teachers, under duress.

"Furthermore, members were unimpressed by the lack of evidence to substantiate the Governors’ claims of the financial necessity for their action.

"The principal arguments are based on things that might, or might not, happen in just over two years’ time, with NO evidence to support such a claim, along with their desire to invest in improvement to the campus.

"Striking is a last resort, and one which we hoped to avoid. We wish there was another way.

"However, it was only with the threat of our action and a letter signed by 54 teachers and supported by another 9 stating our unwillingness to sign new contracts that the Governors have offered to extend the consultation so that we will agree with their proposal. This action was decided by a democratic member vote.

"Members believe it is justified by the significant drop in our projected pensions under the Governors’ proposals, the refusal of the Governors to consider alternative approaches and their decision to issue a Section 1881 notice of “Fire and Rehire” before the consultation process had even begun.

"In summary, we the teachers are, with deep regret, withdrawing our labour in protest against the prospect of being forcibly taken out of the TPS under an unethical threat of dismissal, after a disingenuous consultation process.

"We are seeking a fair, negotiated settlement that will allow members to return to what we love and do best: teaching and nurturing the students in our care."

A spokesman for Abbot's Hill School said: "The Governors and Head of Abbot’s Hill School regret that teaching members of the National Education Union (NEU) and NASUWT have voted to take industrial action.

"The school has offered to meet the NEU and the NASUWT.

"The consultation is still in progress and no final decisions have yet been made.

"Nearly a quarter of the country’s independent schools have left or are planning to leave the TPS because of the unrealistic and unsustainable level of employer contributions which amount to a 43 per cent increase since 2019.

"The School’s main objective now is to ensure that the best possible educational experience is delivered by the non-striking staff during this challenging time."