STRIKE action is set to be avoided at The Grange private school in Hartford after governors dropped proposed changes to staff pensions.

These proposals looked to take staff out of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme and move them to a Direct Benefits Scheme, which would cost the school less.

But unions branded the plans as ‘appalling’ and announced that formal notice had been given for six days of strike action later this month.

Now, following ongoing dialogue with teaching colleagues, governors at the £9,600 a year school have taken the decision to end the pensions consultation process.

In a letter sent to parents, chair of governors Karen Williams said: “We are withdrawing the proposals to make changes to teachers’ terms and conditions relating to pensions.

“The governors began this consultation in an attempt to achieve certainty around costs to allow us to forward plan effectively.

“We believed that addressing the pensions issue now was the right thing to do from a management and budgetary perspective.

“Nevertheless, it has become clear that we cannot achieve this without causing further significant disruption to the school, in particular to students who deserve the full attention of their teachers in the classroom.

“In agreeing to withdraw the pensions proposal, the board have sought and been given assurances from the teaching staff Pensions Committee, in their capacity as representatives of the whole teaching staff, that they will recommend to staff and the unions that the threat of industrial action will be withdrawn, in recognition of a mutual desire to restore stability in school for the sake of pupils and all staff.”

Despite the proposals being shelved, Ms Williams stated that the problem of finances which led to the initial consultation still remains and must be solved by different means.

She added: “The cost of teachers’ pensions is one of a number of significant financial risks facing The Grange and other independent schools, which we must address collectively as a whole community.

“Maintaining the current level of employer contributions means that we need to reconsider how to afford the additional costs of £340,000 per year that this entails.

“We acknowledge that this has been a very difficult period for all staff, both teaching and non-teaching, and also that it has been unsettling for parents and pupils.

“We hope that this decision means we can move forward with our shared ambitions for the future prosperity of the school community.”