Agencies must act within the law

31st March 1995 at 01:00
With reference to your report on the supply teacher market, there is no need to be "scared" that employment agencies need no longer be licensed. No profession, whether the law, medicine or anything else, needs a licence to practice.

All, however, have to act in accordance with the law. In the case of employment agencies there is the specific requirement that they act in accordance with the operating procedures laid down by the Employment Agencies Act of 1976. Any user has the right to report unsatisfactory practices to the Department of Employment or an industrial tribunal.

Furthermore, there is a trade association for employment agencies. This is the Federation of Recruitment and Employment Services (FRES) which has laid down a code of practice for its members. FRES has recently issued a code of practice which relates specifically to those of its members working in the educational sector. This code is based on best recruitment practice and in addition specifically requires members to carry out a full range of checks before a teacher steps inside a school.

With a trade association such as FRES, which not only sets standards but also provides information to its members and has been in existence for more than 60 years, it is hard to argue that is in the public interest to consider appointing a commercial organisation such as Price Waterhouse, whose raison d'etre is fee earning, as industry watchdog and final arbiter as to who is to enter andor continue in business.

It has to be remembered that teacher agencies have sprung up in recent years because there is a genuine need for their services following Government legislation. Headteachers now have budgetary responsibilities. Budgets are limited, there is a chronic shortage of teachers in certain areas and that is why they use supply teachers from agencies.

Pro Tem is aware of this situation and does not intend to exploit it. We are sensitive to the needs of both the schools and the supply teachers. We have found that many of the British teachers who work through Pro Tem Educational Resources find this enables them to supplement their income - giving them the freedom to pursue personal interests.

AD CLYNE

Managing director

Pro Tem, London W1

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