Randstad Education routinely provides cover for in excess of 10,000 teaching days each week, half of which are for sickness or training with the remainder being longer term vacancies due to the inability of some schools to attract or retain teachers.
The rising number of unregulated agencies that have started up to cash in on the teacher shortages is significant. Some new agencies are offering heavy discounts in order to attract schools to start using them. The competition is fierce and the deals offered sometimes look very attractive on the surface, but what is not made clear is that the discounts are being met by reducing the pay of the teacher.
In many cases, teachers are being forced to work as an unqualified cover supervisor to get around the issues of parity pay. It is disappointing to hear that teachers are having to top up their pay by resorting to extra work outside of the education sector.
In 2013 the Department for Education deregulated supply teaching which has contributed to a large number of small agencies setting up without having to prove that they meet strict safeguarding standards or that professional standards are achieved.
Recently an agency in the West Yorkshire area had been interviewing teachers online via Skype, asking them to hold up their passport, as a proof of identity and eligibility to work. This is both risky and illegal as it is not sufficient to inspect the validity of the document and could lead to other documents being falsified such as qualifications and background checks. Schools need to be aware that this poor practice is taking place.
Headteachers who delegate responsibility to other members of staff to decide which recruitment agencies they use should check that the agency is a member of a trade association such as Recruitment and Employment Confederation and that they hold a specific education staffing audit standard. This means that the agency would be subject to regular audits and that a complaints process exist s , holding the agency to account under a code of practice.
We hear every day that school finances are under pressure but using supply teachers on the cheap is not an effective way to deliver quality teaching, particularly when the same schools find it difficult to recruit their own staff. Headteachers will be surprised and shocked to hear that supply staff are being asked to work at daily rates up to 30% less than the standard daily pay rate of a NQT and this is leading to potentially wider reputation issues, and demoralised teaching staff.
Teachers should not be exploited in this way and the impact is likely to be that they will leave the profession to find higher paid work. Supply teaching is a demanding role and can suit the lifestyle of many teachers who have children or want to achieve a balanced work and home life. Those who choose to be supply teachers should feel respected, valued, and motivated by the work and the pay that they receive.