Campaign calls on schools to stop using supply agencies

Exclusive: Move by two teaching unions is aimed at boosting pay for thousands of supply teachers
4th November 2020, 12:01am

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Campaign calls on schools to stop using supply agencies

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/campaign-calls-schools-stop-using-supply-agencies
End Supply Agencies

Britain's two largest teaching unions are campaigning to improve pay and conditions for supply teachers by calling on schools to stop recruiting through agencies and employ teachers directly.

In separate campaigns, the NEU and NASUWT unions are each highlighting what they describe as the profiteering of commercial supply agencies, which can take as much as 55 per cent of the fee a school pays for a supply teacher.

NASUWT analysis revealed that, out of £1.1 billion spent on supply teachers by schools and academies in 2017, just 31 per cent was allocated to supply teachers' pay.


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And its campaign, called a Better Deal for Supply Teachers, calls not only for schools to employ supply teachers directly, but also for the following:

  • A pay framework for supply teachers that mirrors that of their permanently contracted colleagues, and for pay rates that reflect supply teachers' experience and length of service in teaching.
  • Access to the Teachers' Pension Scheme for all supply teachers.

NASUWT general secretary Patrick Roach said: "It is clear that the current profit-led system for employing supply teachers is not working and does not serve the interests of supply teachers, schools, pupils or taxpayers.

"Supply teachers were already increasingly vulnerable to exploitation and poor employment practices from some agencies and schools even prior to the pandemic.

"Now they face even greater hardship and vulnerability, with many agencies and employers seemingly determined during the spring lockdown to do all they could to avoid paying supply teachers the salaries they are entitled to and now using the pandemic to seek to drive down wages by paying teachers at salaries below their levels of experience and skills."

Stopping 'rip-off' agencies

The NEU warned last year that "rip-off" agencies must be stopped and that some were paying supply teachers less than they did 20 years ago.

It has now launched an "Alternative to Agencies Toolkit" to help schools recruit teachers directly and "push back against the domination of profit-making agencies".

A spokesperson said: "The agency model of procurement has become associated with poor practice, falling pay and non-compliance with statutory obligations.

"This is a significant development for thousands of agency workers in education."

NEU analysis shows commercial agencies are charging between £175 and £275 a day for a supply teacher, who will only receive between £100 and £130 (potentially rising to MPS/UPS rate after 12 weeks under agency worker regulations). It also reveals that some agencies will charge up 20 per cent of gross annual salary if a school wants to keep on a teacher permanently.

However, Neil Carberry, chief executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, a national body that represents supply agencies, said it was "ludicrous" to think that schools could match the service provided by agencies.

He said: "Agencies supply a service to schools and support for teachers that cannot be replicated by in-house provision. They have very robust compliance systems in place to protect children, have decades of experience placing great teachers where they are needed, and only charge for necessary costs.

"Suggesting that every individual school or local authority could deliver this same level of service, when they are already stretched to full capacity, is frankly ludicrous.

"We want to work with the unions to make sure their members feel properly supported by agencies."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "Schools, academies, and local authorities are responsible for the recruitment of their supply teachers. This includes deciding whether to use private supply agencies, or directly hire supply teachers or use local authority supply pools.

"Agencies can play a valuable function in supporting schools with meeting their temporary recruitment needs. We advise schools to use the agency supply framework, should they choose an agency."

*Tes' parent company owns three supply agencies

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