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Academies and supply teachers: cutting out the middle man

Peter Carpenter, CEO of TeacherIn, explores how schools can identify the best supply teachers

Posted by Lucinda Reid | January 09, 2017 | School life

Supply teaching offers many benefits; flexibility, variety, better work-life balance, and a stepping stone to more permanent roles. However, the current economic climate coupled with the teacher recruitment crisis, presents challenges and uncertainty to both supply teachers and the schools themselves. 

Peter Carpenter, CEO of TeacherIn

Over the years, the Government’s school spending data has displayed a significant increase in funding allocated to supply teaching. The amount spent by academies has more than doubled, from £176m in 2012/13 to £354m in 2013/14. The data also highlighted that, on average, academies’ annual supply teacher spend had risen by 42 per cent to £92,500 in 2013/14.

Surely this should be seen as a good thing for supply teachers, as higher expenditure means that more academies are sourcing supply teachers, providing more opportunities and demand for work? In theory, yes, but the way in which most academies currently choose to recruit can be hugely expensive with costly fees impacting both the school itself and the supply teacher.

With the right resources, schools are able to minimise their work with agencies, but without it impacting on their already busy workloads. Rather than having to wait for agencies to scan their databases and find supply teachers - who may or may not be entirely relevant for the current position – schools can manage the process themselves

While recruitment agencies take on the burden of sourcing supply teachers for schools, their efforts don’t come cheap. In the last year alone, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) reported that agencies have pocketed £271m, with the average amount a supply teacher loses each year to agencies coming in at £7,063. This is an astonishing figure, yet it doesn’t seem to stop schools from opting for agency help. The BBC found that schools spent twice as much on buying in extra staff through private agencies than sourcing additional staff through local councils. This is no different for the teachers themselves; the NUT also found that 77 per cent of supply teachers stated agencies as their primary route for sourcing work.

What schools and supply teachers may not realise however, is that there are ways to cut out the middle man, while still ensuring the right teacher is being selected, and that the supply teachers themselves see the benefits without having to forgo a significant amount of what they earn due to agency commissions.

With the influx of technology and digital resources available for teaching and learning, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that technology can also be utilised to streamline and simplify the recruitment process. Having the technology and means to manage this ‘in-house’ gives schools a better indication of the relevant candidates in the area that match their needs, a more efficient way to build direct relationships as well as having more control over what teachers are actually paid.

Adding value without impacting workloads

With the right resources, schools are able to minimise their work with agencies, but without it impacting on their already busy workloads. Rather than having to wait for agencies to scan their databases and find supply teachers - who may or may not be entirely relevant for the current position – schools can manage the process themselves. Doing this digitally means staff can quickly and easily access the information whenever and wherever they are. This gives schools the control, convenience and confidence to connect directly with supply teachers and source the right ones for their school.

Having an accessible digital system also means that schools can view a range of vetted profiles of available supply teachers in the area, send out real-time requests for job opportunities, and subsequently capture bookings to ensure there are no scheduling conflicts. Having everything in one place can help simplify the process and enable staff to easily access and manage all the data, from start to finish, without it impacting workloads.

What’s the benefit for supply teachers?

Rather than putting their faith in the hands of recruiters, signing up to a system that puts them in direct contact with schools means that supply teachers are able to get a better indication of the school they would be working for, receive lesson plans ahead of time, and most importantly, get paid directly.

Supply teachers who are employed directly through their local authority or a school, including academies, will also be entitled to join the Teachers’ Pension Scheme. 

Another advantage is the opportunity to develop and expand existing skill-sets through specialised continuing professional development (CPD) programmes. Ahead of the cover period, schools will provide the supply teacher with the focus areas they will be required to teach, allowing them to identify any relevant CPD courses specifically tailored to those areas. There may even be CPD opportunities linked to specific policies, including safeguarding, which supply teachers may not usually have access to.

Ultimately, being able to reduce work with recruitment agencies will bring huge benefits to both schools and supply teachers. It’s something that needs to be more widely recognised amongst academies, as it will likely bring down their annual expenditure, while ensuring the teaching and learning remains top quality.

For more information, visit: www.teacherin.co.uk

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