Over 300 independent schools have decided to leave the Teachers' Pensions Scheme (TPS) - with more on the way. Other employers have also been looking at ways to leave following a significant rise in employer contributions in 2019. This trend has been hotly contested by teaching unions.

Staff at the Girl's Day School Trust (GDST) who have been striking over plans to withdraw the Teachers' Pension Scheme have just settled their dispute. Existing teachers will be allowed to remain in the TPS but newly employed teachers will join a new scheme with a 20% employer contribution.

Alongside this, staff in the TPS will receive a 3.5% pay rise in September 2022 and a further 2% rise in September 2023, rising to 3.5% if employer contribution rates do not increase. Staff in the new Flexible Pension Plan will receive a 7.5% pay rise in September 2022 and a minimum of 3.5% in September 2023. In addition, these staff would also receive a one-off payment of £2,000.

So is this offer ‘forward-thinking’ and ‘sector-defining’? Well, it's certainly a more generous offer than some other schools have made in similar circumstances, with some schools closing to all staff or offering a lower contribution in a new scheme or requiring staff to take a pay cut to remain in the TPS.

Whether this offer actually becomes ‘sector defining’ will depend on whether other independent schools in similar situations feel obliged to make similar offers to GDST. With GDST running 23 independent schools, this offer certainly has more of an impact than if it were just one school. If more independent schools follow suit, then market forces may mean that other independent schools will feel the pressure to keep up - and perhaps the ‘sector defining’ tag really will be justified.  That said, canny multi-academy trusts might also spot an opportunity to capitalise on an exodus from the TPS, as their continued membership of the TPS might be an attractive point of difference when recruiting.