Agencies ripping off schools – NUT supply teachers conference today

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‘THE GOVERNMENT needs to take urgent action on supply teaching. Agencies have been ripping off schools for years and have no place in the education system,’ Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers will tell the annual NUT Supply Teacher Conference taking place today.

Addressing the conference this morning he will say: ‘They pay supply teachers appallingly badly, but their charges are increasingly driving schools to turn to unqualified staff instead, harming students’ education.’

The NUT’s 2017 supply teacher survey, which received a record 1,300 responses, shows that 41% of agency supply teachers say that getting work is becoming increasingly hard – up from 35% last year.

Less than one third of agency teachers (32%) say they can get work almost every day – down from just over half last year – while 39% can only get work about half the time, and more than one in ten are being offered no work for weeks at a time.

More and more secondary schools are now using unqualified staff to supervise classes when teachers are absent, instead of employing professional supply teachers who are trained, qualified and experienced to teach the particular subject to secondary school students. This affects students’ education as well as denying work to supply teachers. 

For example: Freedom of Information requests submitted to secondary schools in Sefton show that, in the week of 5 March 2017, 640 lessons (3.5% of all lessons) in the borough’s 17 secondary schools were supervised by unqualified staff rather than being taught by a qualified teacher.

Just one of Sefton’s secondary schools had no lessons supervised by unqualified staff in the given week. Today’s conference will discuss the NUT’s ongoing campaign to secure better pay and pension rights for supply teachers, through a new employment model which removes the role of supply teacher agencies and the consequent cost to schools.

The other side of the coin is that the reason that there is such a severe staffing crisis is because teachers are being driven out of the profession. Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: ‘The government will be left in no doubt from this survey that teachers believe the current assessment and accountability of England’s primary school children is not fit for purpose.’

Commenting on the teacher workforce statistics, Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said: ‘The Department for Education must take the rise in the number of teacher vacancies, widely recognised to be an underestimate, as a clear message that it needs to act fast to address the deepening teacher shortage crisis.

‘Teachers’ pay has been held down for eight years and is not keeping pace with inflation.

‘The government needs to end the public sector pay cap and provide a significant and fully funded pay increase for teachers to address the recruitment and retention crisis and ensure students get the help and support they need.’

• SATs are having damaging consequences for both children and schools, another new NUT survey has found:

• 94% of teachers agree with the findings of the House of Commons Education Committee that the ‘high-stakes system does not improve teaching and learning in primary schools’.

• 93% say that changes to SATs have significantly increased teacher workload at their school.