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Supply agency targets councils

The largest teacher supply agency in England is considering setting up an office in Glasgow to take advantage of the break-up of local government.

Ian Penman, chairman of the London-based TimePlan Education Group, told The TES Scotland this week: "We are keeping an eye on the situation in Scotland. It is a situation that is interesting to us."

Mr Penman, has already been involved in talks with education officials and last month recruited 60 young Scottish teachers for New Zealand primary schools.

TimePlan has an annual turnover of Pounds 11 million and has recently expanded into New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, as well as extending its operations in the United Kingdom. Its base business is supply teaching in the London area where it employs some 750 teachers, 70 per cent of whom are Australasian.

Mr Penman said: "We have been able to provide a level of service in London that local authorities were unable to provide. We have revolutionised supply teaching. We have to see whether Scotland is ready for a similar revolution. "

But Drew Morrice, Educational Institute of Scotland convener in Strathclyde, commented: "We have been assured by Glasgow City Council it will deal with its own staffing and it is up to other Labour-controlled councils to follow their lead and have nothing to do with TimePlan."

Mr Morrice cast doubt on the viability of the project because rates of pay in Scotland are determined by age and experience and established through the Scottish Joint Negotiating Committee. "TimePlan could not supply staff on a fixed rate," he said.

He also understood the agency had invited teachers who had unsuccessfully applied for jobs in New Zealand to put forward their names for supply teaching. Teachers were told, Mr Morrice said, that the agency would be running supply teaching in the new councils. "They have been misleading teachers," he stated.

TimePlan last year won a significant High Court battle with the National Union of Teachers after being accused of undercutting standard or statutory rates of pay. The company successfully argued that supply teachers were not bound by the 1991 Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act and that staff given work in schools by agencies are not employed by the local authority.

TimePlan insisted that 85 per cent of its teachers were being paid more than the rate set by national guidelines.

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