What keeps me awake at night - Loving what you do doesn't pay the bills

7th February 2014 at 00:00

I recently saw an advertisement for teacher health insurance in which the costs of absence were based on pound;300 per day for supply cover". Every supply teacher who read it - even those abroad, after some hasty currency exchange calculations - must have sighed "If only".

When I retired from full-time teaching, I did not want to give up entirely an activity that I enjoyed. Instead, I decided that it would be nice to continue doing what I loved, but when and where I fancied.

To be honest, there was another factor. I do not have any grandchildren and I feared that the rest of my life might be spent in the company of bus pass holders. There is nothing like an hour of teaching personal, social and health education to a group of 15-year-olds to keep one in the loop.

So I don't necessarily do supply teaching for the money. That said, it is not a volunteer profession and we all have bills to pay.

Which takes us back to the advert. In the UK at least, unless a supply teacher is employed by an authority where they previously worked, it is necessary to go through an agency. I applied to several and was surprised to find that some pay pound;110 per day, while others pay only pound;80. This includes holiday pay. So a full-time supply teacher working for one of the more exploitative agencies makes about pound;15,000 a year. As you can see, that pound;300 figure is vastly above what the majority of supply teachers seem to be getting.

My worries about this advert are threefold. First, if my experience is one shared by the majority, the firm in question is exaggerating pay to sell a product dishonestly. Second, misrepresenting pay may draw people into the supply role under false pretences. And third, perhaps most worryingly, the advert may be right. Could it be that there really are supply teachers out there earning pound;300 per day? If so, this would mean there is a huge disparity in pay that is in desperate need of being addressed.

The writer is a supply teacher from the West of England

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.

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