Lack of school libraries is a national scandal

Literacy underpins success in our modern society so to deprive a child of this critical skill runs the risk of banishing them to an economically depressed under-class, argues Streetspace Communications Manager Simon Dolby.

A weakness with literacy is a common strand for disaffected teenagers not in education or training, prisoners or the homeless. The percentage of this trio of groups handicapped by poor or non-existent literacy skills is typically in excess of 80 per cent.

This week the media have turned the spotlight on a shocking survey conducted by the Great School Libraries Campaign which has revealed that one in eight schools have no library at all. The survey also revealed that schools in more deprived communities are more likely to not have a library; and that pressure on space and a lack of resources means more than half of schools with libraries reported they were actually being used as classrooms or meeting spaces rather than its intended purpose.

Interestingly there is a requirement that all prisons must have a library, but nothing similarly linked to schools. This means successive governments will only provide this resource to those who have fallen through the trapdoor of society, but not to stop children failing in the first place.

This research details a scandalous inequality of access and opportunity that should be put right by the government.

Resourcing is very often at the root of the problem so to help schools with squeezed budgets, Streetspace can provide its ZONE glazed buildings to provide library or classroom space at a fraction of the cost of a traditional build.

Park High School, Stanmore, Middlesex is one of the latest to take up this offer and is now using its new 19m by 7.5m ZONE glazed space as a school library following construction over the summer holidays. Complete with heating and air conditioning, the new build is the perfect space to support the school’s mission to encourage reading for pleasure.

To find out more about ZONE glazed buildings visit www.streetspacegroup.co.uk  

To see more details of the Great School Libraries Campaign survey visit:

https://www.itv.com/news/2019-10-17/one-in-eight-schools-has-no-library-report/

Majority of public sector staff do not have the tools to work effectively, say Kyocera

Research shows lack of workspace investment is leaving many organisations struggling to attract and retain staff  

It is well-documented that the public sector has been under considerable strain over the last few years, with stretched resources and understaffing increasingly common problems. In light of this, research from Kyocera Document Solutions UK has revealed that the large majority of public sector staff feel that their organisational workspaces are ill-equipped, impacting their capacity to effectively complete their work. This is subsequently contributing towards challenges in attracting and retaining staff.

The research, conducted by GovNewsDirect to survey the views of 406 staff across 348 public sector organisations, explored the attitudes and perceptions of staff towards how their organisations operate and their culture. The results of the survey showed a clear correlation between an organisation’s working culture and staff performance and retention. Worryingly, when asked if their organisation is fully equipped with the workspace tools and devices to carry out work efficiently, only 13 per cent of respondents “strongly agreed”, whilst almost a quarter (23 per cent) disagreed.  Alongside this, 75 per cent emphasised their organisations’ struggles in attracting and retaining staff, which underlines the potential impact of a lack of these tools.

However, the research also provided some cause for optimism. 61 per cent anticipate that their organisations will provide the right tools and devices to work efficiently within the next five years. In addition, respondents suggested that organisations that implement “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) policies and new technologies such as cloud computing, will enhance staff productivity and morale. Many also felt that updating workspace tools and embracing digital transformation would offer a significant advantage when recruiting new talent.

Amanda Childs, Group HR Director at Kyocera Document Solutions UK, commented: “It was disappointing to see that a large majority of respondents felt their organisations are not equipped with the right workspace tools to carry out their jobs efficiently. Without these, public sector organisations face the possibility of losing talented employees at a time when they are absolutely essential. Incorporating such changes opens up opportunities for   significant productivity gains in hidden areas at a time where we are all facing continued uncertainty. Workers have a clear idea of what they would like to see, so it’s important for leaders to now work out how to bring these new technologies and processes to fruition.”

New technologies are having a positive impact on physical workspaces across all sectors, particularly through the added flexibility and potential for collaboration they provide. For example, the use of video conferencing and file sharing through cloud computing enables employees to work more effectively in groups, as well as access a much wider breadth of information than before. For any organisation, adopting these new technologies can transform the relationship employees have with the workspace, increasing overall productivity and boosting employee retention in the long term.

Amanda concluded: “It’s crucial that public sector organisations get on the front foot when it comes to embracing smarter ways of working, so they need to act now. The optimism that employees have for the future in this respect is good to see, but this doesn’t mean leaders should rest on their laurels and expect the situation to improve by itself. Organisations need to repay the faith of their employees by taking the necessary steps to modernise, become more agile and be more open to new technologies and ways of working. If this can be achieved, public sector organisations will do a much better job of retaining talent, and will build a more engaged, happier workforce for years to come.”

Full report: https://www.kyoceradocumentsolutions.co.uk/en/smarter-workspaces/insights-hub/insights-from-kyocera/the-office-of-the-future/the-office-of-the-future-report.html

Prowise and AVDAN win contract for 2500 touchscreens in Copenhagen

Birmingham – Prowise and its Danish partner AVDAN have won the contract for supplying interactive flatpanels to all the educational institutions in the Danish capital Copenhagen. The agreement includes the installation and implementation of approximately 2500 touchscreens. 

All schools and childcare facilities in Copenhagen are upgraded with the Prowise Touchscreens. Over the next two years, all outdated projectors in Copenhagen will be replaced by Prowise Touchscreens including iPro lift system and PC module. The contract includes supplying touchscreens to around 2500 classrooms at 70 schools and 600 childcare facilities. 

Prowise service

The delivery and installation of Prowise Touchscreens to Copenhagen started on 14 October this year. The parties involved in the framework agreement made a two-year commitment. When all parties are satisfied the collaboration will be extended with another two years. The agreement does not only include the supply and installation of the screens, lifts and internal PCs, but also the trusted Prowise service and support. 

AVDAN

AVDAN has the highest Prowise partner certification and is responsible for the rollout of the project in Copenhagen. The Danish company provides the installation, implementation, training and service. Naturally, Prowise remains fully involved in the tender. Fun fact: there are already thousands of Prowise Presenter users in and around Copenhagen. This is the education software that Prowise offers to teachers and pupils for free. 

Pioneering Business School is to create a generation of disruptors and digital entrepreneurs through new futuristic programme

SurreyIDEA, an innovative academy, is the first of its kind in Europe, providing a novel and progressive learning experience that enables students to gain valuable skills in an interactive format free from prohibitive entry requirements solely based on academic qualifications. And now, the school is launching a high-tech programme to engage and inspire a younger demographic.

The new workshop, IDEA in a Day, comes soon after SurreyIDEA opened its doors for the first time in June 2019 and is a creative way to reach individuals through an educational and business set-up, to enhance their engagement with learning. The programme aims to captivate 15–17-year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds from schools, charities and community organisations who will spend a day working on a digital business challenge, performing in a tournament format this autumn.

Andy Adcroft, SurreyIDEA’s Founder says ‘SurreyIDEA was launched with the aim of transforming how young people are educated about business, in order to create a new generation of disrupters and entrepreneurs. Our new programme will give young people, especially from hard to reach groups, the chance to see what they are capable of now and the positive impact they could have on their professional life later.

Just as every company now has an on-line presence, it feels like every product or service can also be connected to the internet. The most important thing that will change education, business, the world of work, career opportunities, and lots more is connectedness, and this is a core point throughout the IDEA in a Day programme. After the event, we will visit the schools, charities and organisations and celebrate the work the students have done and build some long-lasting relationships with schools and young people.’

The Disrupters, the students labelled by SurreyIDEA, will be active participants, not spectators sitting in a lecture theatre taking notes. Andy Adcroft believes, they are the entrepreneurial ones that will be leading the digital industry by the hand soon and for many years to come.

The well-considered programme aims to stimulate students and help attendees recognise that their capabilities are more expandable than what they are conditioned to think. The panel of credible experts which includes Gavin Whichello, Visiting Professor and Founder of leading training provider Qube Learning, have confidence that with the right guidance and assistance, they will see individuals and teams driven to succeed, determined not to be defined by their postcode or pre-conceptions of other people.

The faces behind SurreyIDEA are passionate about the fact that they are not an elitist platform closed off to large segments of society and thus further increasing the gap between rich and poor. SurreyIDEA was inspired and developed from Surrey Business School’s highly successful Young Person’s University programme, which has run at the school every July since 2015. The 30-40 Year 12 and 13 students who attend each year are motivated and incredibly entrepreneurial. Many don’t come from traditional university-going backgrounds so are dropping out of the system after A-levels.

However, after a week with Surrey Business School, most go on to apply to university and usually get in. If you’re ready to get your entrepreneurial career under way or are interested to know more about SurreyIDEA IDEA in a Day please see contact details below:

Phone: 01483 686323

Email: surreyIDEA@surrey.ac.uk

Twitter: @SurreyIDEA

Bett announces global partnership with SMART Technologies

London, 12.11.19 – Bett, the world’s leading event for learning technology today, announced a three-year global partnership with SMART Technologies in the UK, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

Joining to help elevate the conversation on education technology and its impact on learning outcomes, the partnership will foster educational and promotional opportunities to help teachers and leaders use technology effectively.

The partnership will kick off in January 2020 at Bett’s flagship event in London, which has many new and exciting developments including the introduction of 6 new solutions-based zones, designed to help visitors navigate the show and make the most of their time at Bett. The zones include: The Education Show, Equipment & Hardware, Management Solutions, Teaching Tech, Learning Tech and the Global Showcase.

SMART Technologies will be the headline sponsor of the Teaching Tech zone, which will showcase technology and time-saving solutions designed to help teachers improve their outcomes in the classroom; as well as assessment, lesson development, distance learning and more.

“With more than 3 million classrooms using SMART solutions, we are committed to supporting students, teachers and leaders to achieve better outcomes,” said Greg Estell, President and Chief Executive Officer for SMART Technologies. “The partnership with Bett provides a unique opportunity to scale our research and services to reach education consumers more broadly and profoundly.”

SMART Technologies will deliver education content programmes at Bett UK, Bett Asia and Bett MEA with sessions for decision makers, teachers and IT managers focused on the effective use of technology, saving time and turning static content into interactive learning. Thought leadership sessions for K-12 leaders and ministry delegations will focus on large-scale implementation and outcomes planning. SMART Technologies will also have a booth at NH20 in the North Hall, where attendees are encouraged to interact with some new, best-in-class products and exciting software updates.

Oliver Merlin, Bett Global Portfolio Director at Hyve Group, added: “SMART has been a major partner of Bett for a number of years and the evolution of this partnership to a Global status was a natural next step. The two brands have aligning focuses which is to work towards improving education and innovation which is hugely exciting. The content that will be offered across the Bett events will share and celebrate new ways of thinking, working and educating.”

Over the 35 years since it began, Bett has become the global meeting place for educators, with its events in the UK and overseas attracting more than 60,000 visitors. The event has evolved to be the recognised global hub for those passionate about education and harnessing the power of technology.

Bett 2020 is free to attend and takes place Wednesday 22 – Saturday 26 January 2020 at ExCeL London.

For more information or to register, please visit www.bettshow.com

Join us at our international events in Malaysia and Dubai:

Bett Asia Leadership Summit and Exhibition Wednesday 4 – Thursday 5 March 2020. For more information, visit: www.asia.bettshow.com

Bett Middle East and Africa Leadership Expo Tuesday 22 – Wednesday 23 September 2020. For more information, visit: www.mea.bettshow.com

UKAS and Sportsafe lead the way with groundbreaking inspection standard that will save schools money

Sportsafe Inspectors celebrate the launch of ISO 17020:2012

Sportsafe has become the first organisation to be accredited by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) in accordance with ISO/IEC 17020:2012 for the inspection of Physical Education, sports, gymnastic, cardio vascular, resistance and outdoor playground equipment.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) is the sole national accreditation body for the United Kingdom. UKAS is recognised by the UK government, to assess against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services.

Accreditation by UKAS demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these organisations. In short, UKAS ‘checks the checkers’.

UKAS is a non-profit-distributing private company, limited by guarantee. UKAS operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government, through the Secretary of State for Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Sportsafe, the leading Physical Education, School Sport and Physical Activity (PESSPA) Inspection Company, based in Colchester, has been working to achieve UKAS accreditation for the last three years, and were proud to gain accreditation for ISO/IEC 17020:2012 in May 2019.

Andy Bickerstaff, Technical and Quality Manager at Sportsafe, said: “It has been really confusing for clients to know who to trust when it comes to inspecting their sports equipment.

“For the last three years, Sportsafe has been working hard to gain UKAS accreditation and we are proud to say we are now the only provider in the UK to have achieved ISO 17020:2012 accreditation for those activities detailed on our UKAS schedule of accreditation which can be accessed via the UKAS website www.ukas.com.”

“This accreditation will give schools, councils and facility management companies confidence that Sportsafe work to an internationally recognised standard and are competent to undertake inspections.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has worked tirelessly to prevent accidents since 1914 and was the first to introduce a variety of playground inspections and indoor soft play which support the BS EN1176 recommendation of an annual inspection.

Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) took it one step further by introducing the inspection for Children’s Fully Enclosed Play Equipment (FEPE) and Inflatable Annual inspections.

The advantage of being a UKAS accredited inspection body is we are routinely assessed in accordance with ISO/IEC 17020:2012 which in turn provides an assurance of our competence, impartiality and integrity. 

Using Sportsafe can save you money

We believe that by using Sportsafe we can save schools money by combining indoor and outdoor inspections and passing that saving back to the school.

 Facilities with both indoor and outdoor equipment can combine their inspections to take place at the same time by the same inspector and save on the travel costs involved in two separate inspection visits by two separate companies.  

It also saves clients the time calling out two different companies to ensure their users’ safety and saves administration costs of managing two suppliers.

It also saves the PE teacher or Headteacher time having to review two different indoor and outdoor reports and repair recommendations.

Unlike other companies, Sportsafe can quote for, and undertake, any remedial work identified during the inspection themselves, ensuring the work is carried out quickly and correctly.

Any work undertaken by Sportsafe will be conducted by personnel not involved in the inspections process in order to maintain impartiality.

Combine indoor and outdoor inspections can help to reduce your school or leisure centers carbon foot print

Finally, combining indoor and outdoor inspections helps save the environment and can help reduce the carbon footprint.

Sportsafe Inspectors drive on average three times round the world every year, visiting in total 10,000 schools.

By combining indoor and outdoor inspections this initiative will allow us to reduce the carbon footprint of each school’s inspection.

This together with the move to hybrid vehicles will hugely reduce the environmental impact of customers’ inspection and repair programs.

Claire Hunt, Sales and Marketing Director, said the changes would see primary schools save on average £150 and secondaries £350 by working with Sportsafe.

She said: “It’s fantastic that Sportsafe customers are actually going to see the difference in terms of inspection quality but also in terms of time, money and environmental savings.”

Further changes Sportsafe has innovated under ISO 17020:2012

The requirements of ISO 17020:2012 mean that all Sportsafe inspectors undergo rigorous training and formal examinations with a set pass rate to ensure they are competent to undertake inspections.

Sportsafe has rewritten the inspection manual, with thorough information on how to inspect each piece of apparatus so clients can be assured their equipment is safe for their users.

Sportsafe’s Technical and Quality Manager, Andy Bickerstaff

Mr Bickerstaff, Technical and Quality Manager, said: “Currently, the scope of inspection written in tenders and the afPE handbook is very basic and, in some areas, vague.

“Sportsafe has rewritten the inspection process for all the equipment found in an educational environment. It goes into much more detail on how to inspect apparatus.

“For example, the scope of inspection for a wooden PE bench is usually no more than a few sentences. The new written inspection process for PE benches to be used for this standard is two A4 pages and details the inspection process of each bench component.

“We are really looking forward to the much-needed changes this brings to the industry.”

Sportsafe is based at Eastgates, Moorside, in Colchester, and has offices in Manchester and Scotland.

Employing more than 95 people, it serves more than 12,000 customers across the UK.

To find out more, go to www.sportsafeuk.com

Report reveals education sector prioritising End User Computing and cyber security over emerging technology

  • The education sector ranked End User Computing & Mobility as its biggest technology priority-
  • Cyber security is the education sector’s second biggest technology priority-
  • Organisations prioritise “utility technologies” over Big Data, IoT and AI-

November 2019 – Softcat, a FTSE 250 listed company and leading provider of business technology solutions and services, has surveyed over 1,600 of its customers* across 18 different industries to reveal the biggest 2020 technology priorities.

Innovations in technology can disrupt the education sector. Cloud technology allows resources to be stored on a school’s cloud terminal, which students can access from their homes. 3D printers allow content previously taught via textbooks to be expressed through 3D models.

However, the education sector is not prioritising these emerging technologies but rather ‘Utility technologies’ like End User Computing, reflected in its ranking in Softcat’s report:

Technology priority Education sector ranking
End User Computing & Mobility 1
Cyber security 2
Networking 3
Software & Asset Management 4
Datacentre & Cloud 5
Communication 6
Data Regulations & Compliance 7
Print 8
Big Data/IoT/AI 9
Managed/Support Services 10
Other 11

Cybercrime is a growing threat in the education sector, reflected in the ranking of this priority in second place. The sector is widely recognised as a top target for computer hackers, so it’s vitally important that schools offer cybersecurity to staff and have technical protections in place.

According to research, 55 percent of UK firms have experienced a cyber-attack in 2019, up 15 percent compared to last year, signifying a growing threat.

Softcat’s findings show how seriously UK businesses are taking such statistics, with 83 percent of industries ranking cyber security as their biggest technology priority.

The construction industry and two public sectors – education and healthcare – rank End User Computing & Mobility as their number one priority, ahead of cyber security investment.

Investment in the Datacentre and Cloud is ranked third overall, highlighting how hybrid cloud is an integral part of evolving IT strategies, helping organisations gain competitive advantages.

Print services are rated as the lowest priority for businesses, but surprisingly emerging technologies (Big Data, IoT and AI) also score poorly.

Surprisingly, emerging technologies are the second lowest tech priority for the third year running,despite the hype surrounding the areas where the UK has the potential to be a global leader.

Real Estate, Private Health & Social Work, and Energy & Utilities ranked Big Data, IoT and AI the highest in seventh and eighth place respectively, but these results are still lower than expected.

Softcat’s expert technologists commented on the findings:

Adam Louca, Chief Technologist – Security, Softcat

“Cyber security continues to be the number one priority for most organisations. This year, we’ve seen the first enforcement actions as part of GDPR, proving the ICO isn’t afraid to punish those falling short of the mark.

“Investing in security by design not only reduces risk but enables organisations to take advantage of new technologies more rapidly.”

Dean Gardner, Chief Technologist – Cloud, Softcat

“The need for convenience and speed will shape the future of cloud as it adapts to the sheer amount of global data held.

“A hybrid cloud model will become the norm, helping organisations avoid vendor lock-in and stay agile in today’s fast-paced digital race.”

Adam Harding, Chief Technologist – End User Computing, Softcat

“The intensifying war for talent and ongoing disruption from every angle means many organisations are focusing on improving employee engagement.

“Improving the digital workspace, is one the best ways businesses can both protect and amplify a culture which makes them appeal to new talent.”

Craig Lodzinski, Chief Technologist – Data and Emerging Technologies, Softcat

 “It’s surprising to see low interest in Big Data, IoT and AI but for many organisations, these aren’t “business as usual” technologies yet. Instead, organisations continue to prioritise “utility” services which are essential for day-to-day operations.”

“However, recent developments mean emerging technologies are becoming easier to adopt and as such, we expect investment to grow over the next few years as industry catches up.”

The full data findings can be explored on Softcat’s dedicated interactive webpage here.

Your ABCs are Still the Building Blocks of a STEM Powered Future

By Dr Andrew Hobbs,COO of Exemplar Education, the UK’s largest provider of online learning support for children.

On Friday, it’s International STEM Learning Day and children across the country will be reminded of the importance of the STEM subjects.  STEM is a real buzz word in the education sector at the moment and it seems to be its answer to everything. Many educators and policy makers increasingly argue that more and more areas of education should focus on STEM, to future-proof our kids for a world that seems to be ever more technology driven.  But what does STEM actually mean, and is it really the answer to everything?

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.  These are the top-line subjects that make up the acronym, but a wide range of specific academic disciplines such as Chemistry, Astronomy, Statistics, Biology, Electrical Engineering and Psychology all fall under STEM. 

The term was first used in America when business leaders noticed a lack of qualified graduates applying for high-tech jobs.  This quickly fed into the political arena, with the US government realising it had a shortage of STEM students and this was affecting economic growth.  American policymakers quickly decided they needed to do more to encourage people to take STEM subjects. This realisation spread across the world and soon governments and universities all found themselves taking part in a global race to give priority to STEM students.   Many nations have gone as far as making it easier for STEM students to immigrate to their countries.

The realisation that STEM educated students can play such an important part in economic growth has coincided with the technological revolution, which only seems to grow faster and faster.  In the future, those educated in STEM subjects are likely to be even more important to the economy and will find it easier to integrate into a world where we increasingly adopt AI, automation and robotics into our daily lives. Truly the world will become increasingly STEM powered.

However, this does not mean the end of the humanities and arts subjects being taught, far from it!  I believe that the best education is a rounded education and I would argue that that Humanities are in fact some of the key building blocks of learning and crucial for bringing STEM subjects to life for people. While the STEM subjects teach students the established scientific facts, the Humanities and Arts help them to not only communicate these concepts more widely, but also to question and debate, sometimes even what they think are unquestionable truths. 


It’s this combination that I believe will create the right education mix for the future.  As society moves forward, we need to be ever more aware of the STEM subjects. But that doesn’t mean forgetting the classics of the English language.  Who would want to live in a world without Shakespeare or Dickens and our rich literary heritage? 

As we move towards a more technologically advanced future, we must recognise the power of STEM learning and its potential to equip our children with the skills they will undoubtedly need in the world of the future. But I also believe we will need ethics and reason more than ever and these come from the Humanities and Arts. 

The future is incredibly exciting and I would urge students to look into the STEM subjects. But at the same time I would tell them to keep a copy of the combined works of Shakespeare on their shelves and always remember their ABCs.

SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES TOLD TO REMAIN VIGILANT ON RADON AS ENERGY EFFICIENCY PUSH RAISES RISK

With Radon Awareness Week underway, Bureau Veritas is reminding schools and universities of the importance of radon monitoring as recent research suggests that the drive for energy efficiency is raising the risk of exposure to the radioactive gas.

Research published earlier this year by University College London (UCL) found that indoor radon levels are increasing due to measures, designed to make buildings more energy efficient, having an adverse effect on indoor air quality. For example, the study found that 67% of properties with retrofit double glazing recorded greater radon levels than those without a recorded retrofit.

Responsible for over 1100 deaths in the UK each year, high levels of radon – a carcinogen known to cause Lung cancer – can be found in buildings of any type, size or location with occupants unaware of the potential danger unless a specific test has been carried out.

With this in mind, Bureau Veritas is encouraging schools and universities to revisit their radon monitoring regimes to ensure safety and compliance.

Ian Mitchell, a Principal Consultant at Bureaus Veritas, comments: “While the push to make UK buildings more energy efficient has largely been a positive step in the right direction, an unintended and unexpected consequence has been worsening indoor air quality, particularly indoor radon levels.

“With latest figures showing that radon gas exposure contributes to over 1,000 deaths each year from Lung cancer, for this year’s Radon Awareness Week we’re encouraging educational institutions to be vigilant, not only in continuously monitoring radon levels but also in having a robust and effective strategy in place that adequately protects employees.”

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all organisations are required to carry out a radon risk assessment. UK workplaces located on below ground floors or in an area of high radon activity, and that are occupied greater than an average of an hour per week or 52 hours per year – must carry out testing as part of the radon risk assessment. Meanwhile, the Ionising Radiation Regulations 2017 (IRR17), requires all UK businesses to adhere to a radon exposure limit of 300Bq/M3 in the workplace,

Ian adds: “Although carrying out a radon assessment may not be the top priority for many businesses, the need to ensure the right preventative measures are in place cannot be overstated. The good news is that it’s simple and cost-effective to measure radon levels and relatively straightforward, depending on the potential level of risk, to manage and mitigate the risks.”

Bureau Veritas has a dedicated Radiation Protection Advisor (RPA) and offers a full scale of consultative services in the area of radon risk management. For further information, call 0345 600 1828 or visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk/radon.

Independent schools opting out of Teachers Pension Scheme urged to ‘shop around’ and take advice before choosing new pension arrangements

With more than sixty independent schools having notified the Government of their intention to withdraw from the Teachers Pension Scheme by July 2019, attention is now turning to the alternative provision which schools are putting in place.  Governors who have never before had to make decisions about pension provision for teachers in their school are now responsible for choosing alternative arrangements.  But concerns have been expressed by schools and advisers that not all governors are ‘shopping around’ for the best scheme, and not all are seeking expert financial advice to help them judge between different pension arrangements, including potentially offering a ‘hybrid’ arrangement where some teachers remain in the TPS.

Like many independent schools, Taunton School in Somerset has responded to the increase in employer pension contributions by reviewing its pension arrangements.  Having taken financial advice, it has set up a ‘hybrid’ arrangement which allows staff to stay in the TPS if they are prepared to fund the increased contributions, or to opt out and receive a package of similar value payable into a private pension.   Having looked at the range of options, Taunton School opted to use mutual insurer Royal London as their pension provider.

Taunton School’s Chief Operating Officer, Nicola Miller, said:

‘We have all been on a steep learning curve when it comes to pensions.  When we talked to our colleagues, we found that they wanted a range of different things.  Some wanted to remain in the TPS and were prepared to pay extra to do so.  Some were happy to opt out of the TPS and have us pay contributions into a private pension, whilst a few wanted to pull out of pensions altogether.  We benefited from taking expert advice and from talking to a range of pension providers before setting up an arrangement that we think works best for our people’.

Sarah Searle, an IFA at Milsted Langdon, who specialises in pensions for teachers said:

‘Independent schools face complex decisions about the right pension arrangement for their staff, and many governors will not have the experience to make that choice without taking advice.   The alternative pension arrangements on offer can vary in things like the amount they take in charges, the range of investment funds that are available and the options for members at retirement.  Pension providers also vary in how much help they will give to individual schools in setting up a new arrangement.  If schools want to look after their staff, it is vital that they take expert advice and look at a range of options before making a decision’.

Steve Webb, former pensions minister and now Director of Policy at Royal London said:

‘Until relatively recently, most of those responsible for running independent schools have not really had to give much thought to pensions.  But increased cost pressures from government have led more schools to review their pension arrangements.  This is a complex business, and there’s no single solution that will necessarily be right for all schools.  Teachers will expect their schools to have taken advice and shopped around for the scheme that best meets their needs’.