Supplied on demand

12th May 2000 at 01:00
John Howson on escalating use of supply staff.

NEARLY one in 20 teachers this January was either a temporary (supply) teacher or an instructor (unqualified teacher). This is the highest recorded percentage for many years.

Looking specifically at instructors, the fact that for the second year running their number has topped the 3,000 mark might be seen as a cause for concern.

Instructors are defined by the Department for Education and Employment as "those possessing specialist knowledge of a particular art or skills (who are) employed only when qualified teachers are not available".

Their specialist knowledge is often in more technically focused areas such as design, sculpture or business studies where there may be insufficient qualified teachers available.

Instructors are only supposed to be used by schools as a last resort, since they usually lack formal training in teaching skills. Indeed, if the vacancy that they are covering is a longtrm one schools should consider accessing the funds

available and start to train

such individuals through the employment-based route into teaching.

One concern is that instructors may not need to reach the same standards in English and maths as trained teachers.

They may, also, not need to pass the new initial teacher training tests, as they are not actually qualified teachers. If this is the case, the number of instructors could rise as any new teachers who finally fail the resits of these tests might be able to see out the remainder of the school year as instructors. The same might be true of those teachers who fail their induction year, if the school cannot find a replacement for them by the time their appeal has been heard.

However, it is more important in the long run to ensure that all pupils are taught by qualified teachers.

John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail:

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