Supply teaching has halved since 1990. But changes in this area could point the way to the future.
Traditionally, education authorities held a list from which schools drew staff as needed. However, supply teacher costs are rising in many areas. The soaring costs of providing supply staff to schools in Wales is forcing authorities there to look at paying on the basis of pupil-contact time or shifting to an insurance-based system for individual schools.
Other schools and authorities are turning to commercial job agencies to help resolve their problems.
The switch to job agencies may mean teachers losing full employment rights. Some agencies regard teachers as self-employed with the result that they are not protected by unfair dismissal and redundancy legislation. Supply teaching is not pensionable. There are legal grey areas as it applies to teacher agencies and the Department of Trade and Industry has recently announced an inquiry into this form of employment.