THE Grange independent school in Hartford says that it is confident that strike action from teachers can be avoided.

In a letter issued to parents, the school confirmed that it has received notice of six days of strike action on dates between Tuesday, February 25 and Thursday, March 12.

This notice was sent by the NEU and NASUWT unions following governors’ plans to take them out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and move them to a Direct Benefits scheme.

Unions say that it is ‘appalling that a school that strives to offer a first-class education to its students is trying to force a second-best pension on its teachers’.

But The Grange, which charges fees of £9,600 per year, says that the strike notice is ‘wholly unjustified’.

In the letter to parents, chair of governors Karen Williams said: “The school believes very strongly that the strike action is misconceived and extremely premature.

“Indeed, we remain confident that it can be avoided.

“The NEU ballot for strike action was based on the fact that the school was proposing to exit the TPS.

“This proposal was taken off the table several weeks ago, which is why we believe the NEU’s notification of strike action is misconceived.

“Pressure from the unions at this time is a distraction in a process that we never intended to be confrontational.

“At the same time, our proposal remains a proposal – no decisions have been taken and for this reason we also consider the threat of strike action to be wholly unjustified.”

Ms Williams adds: “I have explained before some of the significant financial pressures faced by independent schools, even those like The Grange, which have enjoyed healthy balance sheets up to this point.

“Those challenges will not go away, and we need to fund the considerably increased cost of pensions, as well as other cost increases on the horizon.

“The school has made an alternative proposal to teachers in relation to pensions, which we believe is extremely fair and continues to give them access to very valuable pension benefits.

“We did this only after looking long and hard at other options, including additional fee increases and changes to our educational offer.”

The alternative proposal gives teachers the option of remaining in the TPS, but with a slight increase in cost equating after tax and national insurance adjustments to approximately 3.27 per cent of their salary.

Teachers have been given a deadline by which they must individually accept or refuse the proposal, after which governors will decide on next steps.