Supply staff benefit trap;Letter

28th May 1999 at 01:00
I WORK as a supply teacher and found your reports on schools beginning to find it hard to get cover very interesting. There has been no mention of the recent changes in social security benefit with regard to supply teachers and the effects these are having on the supply list.

Since 1997, the new rules mean there is no payment of jobseeker's allowance (JSA) to supply teachers during any holiday periods (including the six weeks' summer holidays). Second, if a supply teacher has established a pattern of employment for two or more school terms during each of the last two school years, the teacher has established a "pattern of regular employment" and is ineligible for JSA.

It is this second rule change that will most severely affect supply teachers. If a teacher qualifies from a training college and gets regular short-term supply work from different councils for just over two school years and then hits a quiet patch and gets no work at all, most people would think that he or she could claim JSA while not in employment during term time.

But not a single penny of JSA would be paid because the teacher has "established a pattern of regular employment as a supply teacher over the last two years or more". The lack of money may cause the supply teacher to look for a job outwith teaching.

The change doesn't immediately affect supply teachers just out of a training college in 1998 or anyone due to graduate in 1999. But during the coming months it will start to affect supply teachers who graduated from college in 1997 and is already affecting all supply teachers who left college before 1997.

I have been affected since May this year and it has made me seriously consider my future in the teaching profession. I am already looking for work elsewhere.

Research has shown that most supply teachers have been on the supply list for a lot more than two years before obtaining a permanent contract. Therefore new rules will probably affect most, if not all, supply teachers in one way or another during the next few years.

All the teacher unions know about this rule change and don't seem to be doing very much about it, or are keeping very quiet about what they may be doing. The General Teaching Council did not mention the matter in your reports either.

Maybe together the unions and GTC don't want to put people off becoming teachers.

Name and address supplied

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