Parents 'furious' with school where teachers have walked out

Teachers from Lady Barn House School, Cheadle, striking over a row about pay and pensions
Teachers from Lady Barn House School, Cheadle, striking over a row about pay and pensions -Credit:Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News

Parents say they are 'furious' with school leaders after teachers at a Stockport school walked out for a second day of strike action. The Manchester Evening News reported last week how teachers at the £11,000-a-year Lady Barn House, in Cheadle, planned six days of industrial action in a row over pay and pensions.

The teachers' union NASUWT says members have been told they could lose their jobs unless they accept a pay cut to retain access to the Teachers' Pension Scheme (TPS). A letter to teachers seen by the M.E.N. confirms they could 'be given notice to terminate [their] current employment contract on 31 December 2024, but offered immediate re-engagement on varied terms from 1 January 2025'.

The school says it is 'proposing a pay rise to offset any changes relating to the pension scheme', saying the changes will mean it can 'continue to run effectively both now and in the future'. It has given teachers until June 28 to sign their new contracts.

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More than 20 teachers joined a picket line outside the independent school for the first strike day last week, with a similar number gathering yesterday (Tuesday). At one point, some parents joined in solidarity. There will be another strike day on Thursday (May 23) - and three more from June 11 to 13.

Union bosses say the employer is threatening teachers with 'fire and rehire' to force through 'new and inferior contracts', which impose a 3.5 per cent pay cut in return for remaining in the TPS. They claim the employer has refused to delay the imposition of contractual changes on staff, despite current financial forecasts from the school stating they can afford to continue paying pension contributions up to 2028.

Teachers on the picket line outside Lady Barn House
Teachers on the picket line outside Lady Barn House -Credit:Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News

A parent of a child at the school, which caters for youngsters in nursery to year 6, says families are furious with leadership at the school and have requested a meeting with headteacher Louise Higson, who took over from Mark Turner in September 2021. The headteacher says that parents are 'being updated' and there has been 'continuous correspondence with the union representatives'.

The mum told the M.E.N: "A parent has written in, on our behalf, demanding a meeting for the parents with the head to explain the management of the school, but we haven't had a reply. We parents are furious that the school is allowing this to carry on."

Teachers holding placards on the picket line
Teachers holding placards on the picket line -Credit:Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News

Parents say it's unfair children are 'missing out' on valuable learning time and even worse when they are paying so much in fees, which they've been told are increasing to £12,000 from September. Leaders at the teachers union NASUWT say they too have had little engagement from the school.

Jac Casson, NASUWT national executive member for Greater Manchester, said: "I'm aware the school advised parents last Monday that the governors 'continue to engage with teaching staff and unions in the hope that this potential industrial action can be avoided, and an amicable solution found'.

"NASUWT met with the employer representatives last Monday morning. Since then I haven't received any correspondence from the school asking to meet again to discuss what the school can do to end the dispute. The only engagement NASUWT has had is acknowledgement of receipt of correspondence NASUWT has sent to the employer.

Lady Barn House School, Cheadle
Lady Barn House School, Cheadle -Credit:Google Maps

"NASUWT would like to resolve the dispute without need for further strike action, but the employer doesn't seem willing to engage in making any concessions, and as it stands our members are being pressured into agreeing a 3.5% pay reduction or face being fired and rehired on worsened terms and conditions."

Speaking earlier, Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, described the school's 'unjustified plans' as 'an attack on the financial security of hard-working teachers'. "The school is attempting to force them to choose between being left worse off in retirement or worse off now," he said.

“To make matters worse, the behaviour of the employer has been obstructive and opaque, in an attempt to ride roughshod over teachers’ contractual terms and conditions. The school must now realise it cannot simply railroad these changes through and commit to a negotiated settlement to resolve this dispute.”

Teachers on the picket line outside Lady Barn House
Teachers on the picket line outside Lady Barn House -Credit:Kenny Brown | Manchester Evening News

Julie Flynn, acting chair of governors for Lady Barn House School, said: “Our priority is to the children and their education which is why we have been working to ensure the school can continue in the coming years by proposing these changes.

“The changes to contractual terms are restricted to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. Through consultation with our teachers, we have proposed a 3.5% pay rise to offset any changes to the pension scheme as we seek to minimise the impact for teachers. This will be in addition to any cost of living increase.

“Any strike action is unsettling and disruptive for the whole school community, we are working hard to ensure that the effects of any disruption to the education of our pupils is kept to a minimum. We are keeping parents updated, this has included SLT talking directly with many, and being available to discuss individual queries.

“We have been in continuous correspondence with the union representatives as we have been attempting to reach a conclusion which is focused on the best option for the pupils, staff and the future of the school.”