Supply agencies are making bogus bookings with teachers to keep them free for work for the next day and to prevent them being booked by rival agencies, a union have revealed.
The NASUWT teaching union has described supply teaching as a “murky world” akin to “the wild west” in which there is lack of regulation of agencies who recruit teachers.
In what it describes as “unacceptable” and “increasingly common” practice, the union says supply teachers are being contacted on Friday evenings and booked in their favourite schools for the following Monday – only to be told on the Monday that the so-called booking has been cancelled.
As a result, the agency knows the teacher has no other work on and may be less likely to turn down a booking at a less desirable school.
NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: “This is poor employment practice and agencies which use this clearly do not treat those on their books with the dignity, respect and concern that an agency worker has the right to expect.
“The NASUWT has raised time and time again the need for the government to address exploitation of supply teachers, which its policies of marketisation and deregulation have enabled to flourish.”
Tes has also heard claims from a supply teacher, who does not wish to be identified, that at least two agencies are deducting money from supply teachers if they are given a free period within the school day.
The former head of department said she knew of two people who this had happened to. She said: “One women had been sent to the school for a full day but the teacher who she’d been replacing returned for one of the lessons and the school couldn’t find another lesson for her to cover so she had money taken off her for that hour.
“This sort of thing may well be in your terms and conditions with an agency, but if you’re suddenly faced with six pages of terms and conditions the night before you’re due to start a job then you won’t necessarily have time to go through it all.”
The NASUWT said it was aware of this practice but that it would be legal if it had been set out in terms and conditions between an agency and a teacher beforehand.
Ms Keates added: “Examples we have received from our supply teacher members include supply teachers being contacted on a Friday night and being offered work on a Monday morning at a certain school, generally one which is well-regarded.
"But on Monday morning the agency contacts the supply teacher to say the booking has been cancelled, but offering a different placement.
“Naturally supply teachers rely on frequent work for a source of income, so they will more often than not take the work as they need it.”
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), the professional body which represents supply teaching agencies across the country, said it was committed to raising standards and sharing good practice with its members.
REC solicitor Lorraine Laryea said agencies needed to inform supply teachers, at the time of offering assignments, as to whether the rate of pay would be daily or "with reference to the number of hours worked".
You can read more about the plight of supply teachers in this week's Tes magazine, available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here
*Tes' parent company Tes Global owns three teacher-supply agencies