A sustainable way to employ supply staff in education

I am a supply teacher. When I began teaching, 22 years ago, I joined my local authority supply pool and worked on supply at the same primary school I attended as a child. I am now, once again, a supply teacher, though now I have to sign up with 5 different supply agencies, who all offer very similar rates of pay: actually, the same rate I was paid as a newly qualified teacher 22 years ago! I have signed up with 5 agencies because I can never tell which agency will be the one that will give me work. One week, I may work for 3 different agencies. The weakness of this system has been exposed by Covid. In Lockdown 1, only 40% of supply teachers were furloughed by their agencies and even then, not by every one of their agencies. Now, in Lockdown 3, only 35% of the eligible teachers have been furloughed. 50% of the supply workforce are not working and not furloughed. The disjointed nature of the marketplace makes it possible for qualified teachers to be left without an income. This has led to teachers leaving the profession: in the middle of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis. However, this hasn’t happened throughout the whole of the UK. Across the Irish Sea, where the Northern Ireland Substitute Teacher Register (NISTR) operates, 100% of the supply teachers are in receipt of a ‘furlough like’ compensation. In Scotland, where most supply is still provided through local authority supply pools, a similar compensation is paid. And in Wales, furlough payments have now been included as part of the Framework Agreement for the provision of supply teachers. All this evidence points towards local authority teacher supply pools providing the answer to a sustainable way to keep supply staff in education.




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