Teacher supply agencies are being given a run for their money in Sheffield. The city decided two years ago to set up its own in-house supply business, but as a self-financing, non-profit making company.
It was the city's response to a crisis two years ago during which several secondary schools struggled to stay open because of a dearth of suitable supply teachers.
Conventional supply agencies were proving unable to meet the demands of schools. So Sheffield Education Service Supply Agency was set up in September 2001. It now has 261 teachers on its books and has helped to place 81 teachers on long-term contracts in schools.
The operation has been so successful that it has won praise from Ofsted and is being considered for use as a model by the Department for Education and Skills.
Genny Bradley, Sheffield's head of human resources, says the agency has been particularly useful in helping struggling schools in disadvantaged areas to find staff.
A valuable spin off has been the boost to long-term recruitment and retention generally. The number of unfilled vacancies is well below that nationally and in similar LEAs.