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Agencies are an aid, not a threat

Your editorial on the recent TimePlan case perpetuates a series of myths about the role of locum teacher agencies.

Agencies are not unregulated. They are bound by the Employment Agencies Act and regulations which dictate, in a detailed way, how they must conduct their business. Failure to comply may lead to an industrial tribunal prohibiting the agency's operation.

All members of the Federation of Recruitment and Employment Services, the association for teacher agencies, abide by a code which requires them to carry out a check against List 99 and criminal records. In addition, FRES members are required to check references, identity and qualifications before supplying a teacher.

I am surprised that The TES refers to locum teachers as the "bottom of the education food chain". Would it not be more appropriate to accept that locum teaching work is an ideal opportunity for teachers to accommodate family or other commitments and still give the education service the benefit of their skills and experience?

Similarly, locum work is a perfect opportunity for young teachers to build confidence and gain experience. From the point of view of a headteacher, the service provided by locum agencies in providing carefully vetted and properly matched teachers at short notice is valued as an aid to education, rather than a threat.

The very existence of locum teacher agencies - and their increasing importance - demonstrates their value, not only to the education service, but also to teachers. Perhaps The TES should at long last accept this reality.

CHRISTINE LITTLE Chief executive FRES 36-38 Mortimer Street London W1

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