Supply teachers should be banned from British schools, according to a leading education academic.
David Burghes, professor of maths education at Plymouth University, called for schools to follow Continental practices and end the need for supply cover by dividing absent teachers' pupils among their colleagues. They should also ensure that any staff training took place outside the school day.
Professor Burghes, former head of the Government's Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, also claimed there was a "big question mark" over the quality of teachers joining the profession. He was speaking at a conference organised by the think tank Politeia, which asked, "Is there a crisis in the profession?" Contributors claimed that teachers did not have the qualifications they needed to do the job.
Professor Burghes warned about the standard of new recruits.
"My worry is that we are recruiting too many people who are not born to be teachers," he said. "They are not the kind of people I would want teaching my grandchildren."
He said he also had concerns over supply teachers being able to control classes properly.
"I go to most countries in Europe and they wouldn't understand what a supply teacher is because they don't exist there," he said. "But here we have companies making millions out of this. Supply teachers should be banned from our schools."
There are 12,800 teachers listed as in occasional service - short-term supply for under a month - and still more supply teachers have longer contracts.
John Dunn, director of Select Education, the country's biggest teacher supply agency, said supply teachers were an efficient way of using taxpayers' money.
"The cost of a supply teacher is only there when the need is," he said. "If we had sufficient staff in schools to provide cover when the need arose, then on the days when you didn't need cover you would have too many staff."
Chris Woodhead, the former chief schools inspector, told the conference that teacher training was "stuffed full of distractions", and that trainees should be able to spend all of their time thinking about their subject, instead of learning about how to teach pupils with special educational needs or English as a second language.
Unqualified primary teachers, page 12.