We are filling a need, not victimising

14th July 1995 at 01:00
I read your editorial of June 30, "Part-time victims", with dismay. It is hard to know where to begin. The TES has a short memory, unlike the thousands of heads who use agency supply teachers.

When TimePlan started in 1989, we surveyed inner-London schools. Ninety-three per cent welcomed the idea of a choice for supply staff, and 88 per cent said their LEA was unable to maintain an adequate number of supply teachers. From my south London school, it was obvious that the "service" had no structure, no management, and no quality control. It was this less-than-Cinderella service that we set out to reform.

Then, as now, the overwhelming majority of supply teachers were daily paid, with no sickness or holiday pay. This has been the norm for as long as I can remember. It allows teachers to choose when and where they work, it allows them to leave a poor school at the end of the day and not return, it enables them to begin an alternative career or to travel off-season, and it allows them to fund a course of study.

Agency teachers are not at the "bottom of the education food chain". Ask any headteacher why he or she uses agency staff. The reasons have more to do with quality than with price. More than 85 per cent of our staff are paid at or above the national pay scales. By offering higher pay for young teachers coming to London, we believe that our intervention has helped to bridge the shortage gap in the capital over the past six years.

London faces a shortage of up to 6,000 teachers by the turn of the century. The children are born, and the beginnings of scarcity are already evident. What answers has The TES? Which London LEAs are recruiting nationally for supply and other temporary staff? Which LEAs are actively recruiting overseas? Which LEAs are offering in-service support and resources for young supply teachers coming to London from the provinces? We see no serious long-term planning apart from our own.

What is "centrally important to the teaching profession" is to get good teachers working in well-organised classrooms. The victims of an inadequate supply service are the children of working Londoners and full-time teaching colleagues, whose lives are made impossible when a supply teacher is professionally inadequate.

CHRIS KING Director of education TimePlan Education Group 2021 Arcadia Avenue, London N3

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