National supply teaching agency Randstad Education welcomes the support that the NASUWT is showing to supply teachers and commends their comments that more regulation of teaching agencies is required. 

The NASUWT released details from a conference that took place in Birmingham on the 12th March 2016 where England’s largest teaching union suggests that “government and schools are failing supply teachers”.  

Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT said that many supply teachers are being exploited by agencies and that the chancellor should use the budget to end the situation. The NASUWT claims come, just days before a new law comes in to force that effectively bans teachers from claiming tax relief on journey’s to and from work. 

The NASUWT survey suggests that three out of four supply teachers have been asked to sign an “illegal” contract with an agency using an umbrella company or offshore company in a so called tax avoidance scheme.  Supply teachers have been using Umbrella companies for many years to allow them to claim travel and subsistence tax relief but this option has been withdrawn in a law change due to commence from the start of the 2016/17 tax year. 

Stewart McCoy of Randstad Education said that the question relating to this topic in the survey seems ambiguous and misleading.  It’s not clear if the teachers were asked a number of questions or one question grouping the illegal offshore company point, in the same question as the perfectly legal options, effectively invalidating the question. Suffice to say that the Union is not well informed about the legal position, and unfortunately neither are the teachers. It’s also unclear if the response was from 1, or 1000 teachers. 

It’s not fair for the union to cast such aspersions at agencies without being in possession of the facts and at the same time making teachers feel very uncomfortable about their own legal status. It has been illegal to offer offshore company employment to supply teachers since the changes to the Tax and National Insurance rules in 2003. I am almost 100% certain that agencies are not operating this type of contract and if they are HMRC will catch up with them, and no doubt deal with them appropriately. NASUWT have asked the wrong question in my view.

In the meantime the NASUWT calls for more regulation which is welcomed by those recruiters that have worked hard in recent years to improve conditions for supply teachers. Schools and teachers alike are better served by a regulated industry and this was the case until 2013 when the Department for Education withdrew funding for the “DfE Quality Mark for Supply Teachers.” Since then there has been an explosion in the number of agencies providing supply teachers to schools. Some at cut price rates and in some cases not members of any trade association. This potentially puts schools, teachers and children at risk due to insufficient monitoring of those supply agencies. 

REC Audited Education is one such scheme that is voluntary and has been adopted by the biggest suppliers in the education sector and many smaller companies too. However new agencies are estimated to number over 100 in 2015 alone are not regulated in any way. Schools and teachers should be mindful of this when choosing an agency, and remember that when it comes to staffing on the cheap the impact of under paid staff is significant and can affect learning as well as welfare and outcomes for the pupils.