Head takes on agency and wins

Primary school forces supply firm to back down over introduction fee. Joe Clancy reports

A PRIMARY head who challenged a pound;5,000 introduction fee charged by a supply agency for a teacher her school employed has won a legal victory.

Barbara Ridyard disputed the legality of the charge when Select Education issued a court order for the amount, claiming it represented 25 per cent of the hired teacher's first-year salary.

Now she has learned that the agency is not going to pursue the case further after she requested written evidence of its right to claim the fee.

She challenged the claim under the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Business Regulations 1976 and was delighted to learn that the agency had decided not to proceed.

The problem arose when her school, Laurance Haines in Watford, Hertfordshire, gave one day's work to a supply teacher from Select in April last year.

The teacher subsequently applied for a permanent post advertised by the school and was taken on as a Year 3 teacher in September.

The school then received an invoice for pound;5,287 accompanied by a leaflet outlining their introduction charges.

But Ms Ridyard learned that under the 1976 regulations, a written agreement between the agency and the school needs to be in place for payment to be enforceable.

She said: "Select were supposed to have a signed agreement. It hangs on whether a school asks an agency to find someone for a permanent placement.

"The school was under a lot of pressure to pay because we were bombarded with invoices demanding payment and then we had a court order. The pound;5,000 demanded is a lot of money out of our budget and we are very relieved we don't have to pay it."

Ms Ridyard became head in September and inherited the row from her predecessor who had offered the agency pound;450 in settlement.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said his organisation received many requests for assistance over demands from agencies.

"Heads do feel that they are being ripped off. This is an extremely important case that demonstrates only too clearly that schools need to examine the small print of any contract with a supply agency."

Select said it dropped the court action as a gesture of goodwill. A spokesman added: "Our terms of business clearly state that a school which appoints a supply teacher provided by the agency will be liable for an introduction fee.

"This is standard practice throughout education and other recruitment sectors and takes into account the time, effort and cost of recruiting each temporary worker incurred by agencies."

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