Current working conditions and experiences of Supply Teachers
Supply teachers play a critical role in the education service and are an essential part of the school workforce.
The NASUWT has surveyed its supply teacher members to gather information about their working conditions and experiences in order to enable the Union to further enhance its service to members.
The survey set out to examine:
- the reasons why teachers work on a supply basis;
- the employment basis on which supply work is undertaken;
- the pay arrangements for supply teachers; and
- the support and access to the contractual benefits enjoyed by teachers on the establishment of a school.
The NASUWT conducted a postal/online survey of supply teachers over a three-week period in January 2008. This report is based solely on the responses to that survey.
The response to the teachersʼ survey was significant, attracting 1,800 responses and demonstrating that there were issues supply teachers wanted to raise.
Sixty-five per cent of survey respondents were female, broadly reflecting the proportion of women in the teaching workforce (70%). However, 88% of respondents aged under 35 were women.
Responses were received from a disproportionately high number of teachers aged over 50 (74%) compared to 30% of the teaching workforce that are aged over 50 and compared to only 7% aged under 35 (compared to 36% of the teaching workforce).
Three per cent of survey respondents stated that they have a disability or impairment.
Two per cent of respondents identified themselves as Black and minority ethnic.
Reasons for working as a supply teacher
Respondents were asked to indicate the reason why they chose to work on a supply basis. Almost a third of respondents (31%) said they had made a career choice to work on a supply basis. Four per cent of respondents said they were working on a supply basis pending a successful application for permanent or temporary contracted employment
Two in five (41%) said they were using supply work as a means of supplementing their teachersʼ pension.
However, one in nine (11%) said they were working on a supply basis because they were unable to secure an alternative permanent/temporary post. Worryingly, this represents two in every five (40%) of the respondents aged under 35, one in every seven (14%) of the respondents who consider that they have a disability and one in every six (16%) of the respondents who identified themselves as from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Working as a supply teacher
Respondents were asked to indicate their current employment status. Respondents stated that in the majority of cases (53%) they obtain supply work through personal contacts with schools. Over one in four respondents (26%) said they were employed through an agency. Only 13% said they were employed by a local authority or Education and Library Board as part of a supply pool and 8% said they obtain ad hoc supply work through a local authority or Education and Library board on a day-by-day basis.
Respondents aged under 35 are more likely to be employed through an agency (40%) and less likely to find work through personal contacts with schools (37%).
The survey sought to examine the issues around pay arrangements for teachers undertaking supply work.
The majority of respondents (65%) advised that the basis on which their pay would be calculated was always advised. However, the results of the survey suggested that there was no consistent way that supply teachersʼ pay was calculated with a high number of respondents advising that they were paid on a daily rate (83%) and on an hourly rate (71%).
The majority (90%) advised that they were always paid within an agreed period for the work. However, nearly one in ten respondents (9%) stated that they are not paid in a timely way for the work undertaken.
Individual comments from respondents also expressed a number of concerns on pay including the variations that occur between employers in the way that their pay is calculated, lack of access to the upper pay scale and pay not being subject to cost of living increases.
Opportunities for supply teachers
More than half of respondents (51%) said they were satisfied with their access to opportunities to undertake long-term supply work compared to 15% who said that they were dissatisfied.
Nearly three in ten respondents aged under 35 (28%) were dissatisfied with their access to opportunities to undertake long-term supply work.
Almost three quarters of respondents (74%) said they were satisfied with their access to opportunities to undertake short-term supply work compared to 16% who said that they were dissatisfied.
However, one in five respondents (21%) and two in every five respondents aged under 35 (40%) said they were dissatisfied with their access to opportunities to gain permanent employment compared to 31% who were satisfied (42% of respondents aged under 35).
Three quarters of respondents (76%) said they were satisfied with their access to opportunities to teach in their preferred subject or key stage compared to 13% who said that they were dissatisfied.
Some respondents clearly felt that the opportunities to undertake short-term supply work were reducing and that this was due to the use of Higher Level Teaching Assistants (HLTA) and cover supervisors by schools.
Support for supply teachers
Respondents were asked to indicate their satisfaction with the levels of support they receive from schools during their placements.
Three quarters of respondents (74%) said they were satisfied with the quality of support and advice they receive from their employer compared to 18% who are dissatisfied. However, one in four respondents aged under 35 (25%) are dissatisfied with the quality of support and advice they receive from their employer. The majority of respondents (58%) said they were satisfied with the quality of support and information they receive when starting a new placement compared to one in six (16%) who were dissatisfied.
Over two thirds of respondents (69%) said they were satisfied with the support they are provided with on behaviour management in the schools that they work in compared to one in four respondents (25%) who are dissatisfied. This increased to 34% of respondents aged under 35 who were dissatisfied with the support that they were provided with on behaviour management.
Over two thirds of respondents (67%) said they were satisfied with the quality of information about the curriculum, schemes of work, policies and procedures in the schools where they work compared to one in four respondents (26%) who are dissatisfied.
However, two in five respondents (39%) and two thirds of respondents aged under 35 (63%) said they were dissatisfied by their ability to access professional development/cpd compared to one in three (33%) who were satisfied.
Almost half of respondents (45%) said that they were satisfied with their access to time to enable them to plan, prepare and assess pupils compared to 31% who were not.
It is clear from the survey that the majority of supply teachers are satisfied with their current working conditions. The survey has, however, highlighted a number of concerns.
The high numbers of teachers who appear to have been forced into undertaking supply work due to lack of access to permanent work is of deep concern. Although supply work can provide flexible employment it does not automatically provide a stable income, access to benefits such as sick and maternity pay or automatic access to the Teachersʼ Pension Scheme. It is particularly concerning that there appears to be a high level of young, disabled and BME teachers who are experiencing difficulties in obtaining substantive work and therefore access to these benefits.
The problems supply teachers are experiencing in relation to their pay including the lack of a standardised pay formula and access to discretionary elements of the pay scale are of concern. There is also clearly an unacceptably high number of teachers who are not being paid on time for the work they have undertaken.
Finally, there appears to be a lack of access to professional development opportunities for those undertaking supply work, preventing them from accessing the higher echelons of the profession including pay and career progression. In a rapidly changing educational environment it is critical that this issue is considered and addressed.
This survey has provided an objective and informative assessment of the current working conditions and experiences of supply teachers.
The evidence from this survey will inform the Unionʼs representations to Government and Employers, and the Unionʼs ongoing work with the DCSF on a standardised pay formula for part-time teachers and short-notice teachers. The Union will also consider further services and support which can be offered to supply teacher members.