Introduction
The survey
Nature of work
Access to work
Availability of work
Working for an agency and/or an umbrella company during the academic year 2020/21 and the school closures from January 2021
Working for a local authority during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021
Working directly for a school during the academic year 2020/21and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021
Experiences of supply teachers when undertaking work in schools during the 2020/21 academic year
Health and safety issues for supply teachers during the academic year 2020/21
Rates of pay for supply teachers who were not paid in line with the NPS during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 pandemic
Financial situation during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021
Conclusion

Introduction

Supply teachers are integral to the education system, a fact that has been brought into sharp focus throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Without supply teachers, many pupils would be denied the opportunity to be taught by qualified and dedicated teachers who ensure that schools can continue to provide the education to which children and young people are entitled. Supply teachers make a vital contribution to securing high educational standards for all children and young people.

Despite the crucial role supply teachers have played throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the experiences of many supply teachers suggest that developments such as deregulation have had a significant impact upon how supply teachers are deployed, how they are paid, and on their working conditions, in comparison with teachers who have a contract of employment with a school. The NASUWT’s annual survey of supply teachers in Wales aims to examine the changing experiences of supply teachers, including issues and trends.

The 2021 survey was undertaken between August and September. A total of 89 supply teachers responded to the survey.

This report provides the main findings from the 2021 survey of supply teachers and highlights the experiences of supply teachers during the academic year 2020/21.

The survey

Nature of work

Supply teachers were asked about their ability to secure work teaching during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021. Just over half (52%) reported that they had problems securing work. Of those, 14% stated that they had significant problems securing work and well over one in ten (13%) stated that they could not secure any supply work.

I was signed up to multiple agencies due to the difficulty in securing work at the beginning of the academic year.

Access to work

During the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021, just over a third of supply teachers (34%) reported that they were working for one school and just over one in ten (11%) reported that they were working for two schools. A further 15% reported that they were working for three schools, 14% reported that they were working for four schools, and just under one in ten (9%) reported that they were working for five schools. Seventeen per cent of supply teachers reported that they were working for more than five schools.

Of those supply teachers who reported that they were able to secure work during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021, just under two thirds of supply teachers (64%) said that they had secured work through a supply agency, whilst well over a quarter (29%) reported that they had secured work directly as a supply teacher by a school and 7% stated that they had secured work via a local authority supply pool.

There was less work available due to the lockdowns.

For those supply teachers working through an agency during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021, well over two fifths of respondents (46%) stated that they were signed up to one agency to secure work, just under a third (32%) reported that they were signed up to two agencies, 16% reported that they were signed up to three agencies, 2% reported that they had signed up to four agencies, and just under one in 20 (4%) reported that they were signed up to five agencies.

Just over one in 20 (6%) supply teachers stated that this was more agencies than at the start of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021, whereas just under a quarter (23%) reported that this was less. Two fifths of those who responded (40%) stated that this was the direct result of the way in which they were treated by the agency/agencies during the lockdown from January 2021.

One agency was refusing to pay furlough, so I left and joined another.

Despite it being a legal requirement since April 2020, only 23% of supply teachers who obtained work through a new supply agency reported that they had been provided with a Key Information Document (KID) detailing how they would be paid and associated deductions, as well as other key details.

I am now with two trustworthy agencies who don’t treat me like a number.

Of those supply teachers who were provided with a KID, just under one fifth (19%) stated that the KID detailed whether they would be paid/employed through an umbrella company.

For those supply teachers working for an agency prior to April 2020, one fifth (20%) reported that they had been asked to sign a contract or agreement with an umbrella company.

For those supply teachers working for a local authority during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021, just over four fifths (81%) reported that they were working for one local authority, just under one in 20 (4%) stated that they were working for two local authorities, just under one in 20 (4%) reported working for three local authorities, and just under one in 20 (4%) reported working for four local authorities. Eight per cent of supply teachers reported working for more than five local authorities.

For those supply teachers working directly for a school during the Covid-19 pandemic, half (50%) stated that they were working directly for one school, one fifth (20%) reported working directly for two schools, one in ten (10%) were working directly for three schools, and one fifth (20%) were working directly for more than five schools.

Availability of work

Supply teachers were asked where they were able to obtain work during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021.

Just under three fifths of supply teachers (58%) who responded to the survey stated that their supply work took place in primary schools. Just over two fifths (41%) stated that their work was in secondary schools. Eight per cent of supply teachers reported that their supply work took place in a special school/pupil referral unit (PRU).

Where supply teachers undertook the majority of their work during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021

For those supply teachers who reported that they were able to secure work during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January 2021, well over two fifths (46%) reported that the majority of their supply teaching was ad hoc/daily work, just over one in ten (11%) said that this was weekly assignments, and 7% stated that this was monthly assignments. Just over one in ten of supply teachers (12%) reported that the majority of their work was termly assignments and just under a quarter (24%) stated that the majority of their teaching was on longer term assignments in excess of a term.

When supply teachers were asked how many days on average they were able to obtain work during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 lockdown from January, over one in 20 (7%) said they obtained work one day a week, just over one in ten (11%) two days a week, and over one fifth (22%) three days a week. Well over one in ten (14%) of supply teachers in the survey said they were able to obtain work for four days a week and well in excess of two fifths (46%) stated that they were able to obtain work five days a week.

Over a third of supply teachers (36%) stated that the amount of supply work had decreased during the academic year 2020/21 compared to the year prior to the pandemic. Just under a quarter (24%) stated that the amount of supply work had increased and just two fifths (40%) of respondents stated that the opportunities had stayed the same.

I was on furlough for some of it, so I worked less but received a regular income.

Twenty-nine per cent of supply teachers stated that the need to maintain the integrity of ‘bubbles’ in schools had a detrimental impact on their ability to secure work, whereas well over two fifths (44%) stated that this had not had an impact on their ability to secure work during the academic year 2020/21.

Well over a third of supply teachers (36%) stated that the advice from the Welsh Government to school leaders on the use of supply teachers and minimising the number of visitors to schools had a detrimental impact on their ability to secure work during the academic year 2020/21.

Just 16% of supply teachers stated that the advice from the Welsh Government on the use of supply teachers for longer term assignments had a positive impact on their ability to secure work during the academic year 2020/21.

Just one in 20 supply teachers (5%) stated that they had been able to secure work through the Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards (RRRS) programme during the academic year 2020/21.

January 2021 until schools reopening, I had no work.

Of those who secured work through the RRRS programme, two fifths of supply teachers (40%) reported receiving rates of pay which were the same as they normally received as a supply teacher, whilst a fifth (20%) reported receiving rates which were less than they normally received as a supply teacher.

A lot of work this year due to teachers isolating from being in contact with a case. However, I believe this will change for the upcoming year as close contacts do not need to isolate.

Working for an agency and/or an umbrella company during the academic year 2020/21 and the school closures from January 2021

Supply teachers were asked about their experiences working through an agency and/or umbrella company during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021.

In regard to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and furlough, over a quarter of supply teachers (27%) reported that all of the agencies they were working for placed them on furlough. A third of supply teachers (33%) stated that some of the agencies they were working for placed them on furlough and two fifths of supply teachers (40%) reported that the agencies they were working for did not furlough them.

Two fifths of supply teachers (40%) reported that the agencies they were working for did not furlough them

Only for the first lockdown. No furlough paid for the second lockdown from January 2021 from either agency.

For those supply teachers who were placed on furlough, almost one fifth (19%) stated that the agency/agencies and/or umbrella company/companies did not pay them according to their contract of employment (e.g. weekly or monthly).

Just over 30% of supply teachers believed that changes to the CJRS, which expected employers to contribute to National Insurance and pension contributions, impacted upon their ability to continue to be furloughed.

All agencies said they could no longer afford to furlough.

Sixteen per cent of supply teachers stated that the agencies and/or umbrella companies still refused to place them on furlough even if the relevant period for the calculation of furlough suggested there was no National Insurance or pension contribution payments required.

Well over a third of supply teachers (37%) stated that changes to the CJRS which prevented agencies and/or umbrella companies from backdating CJRS claims to January 2021 had a detrimental impact on their financial situation when furloughed during the subsequent lockdown from January 2021.

The time between when I asked for furlough and it was confirmed caused me to use the last of my savings. Then to be told there was no backdating left a big gap in my finances.

For those supply teachers placed on furlough by an umbrella company during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021, just under three quarters (73%) reported that they were paid 80% of their average wage, whereas 3% stated that they were paid at just 80% of National Minimum Wage (NMW).

When supply teachers were asked if the agencies and/or umbrella companies had adjusted furlough payments so they received the highest amount possible each time they were paid during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021, less than one fifth (18%) reported that all the agencies and/or umbrella companies had adjusted their furlough payments and one in 20 (5%) reported that some of the agencies and/or umbrella companies had adjusted furlough payments to reflect the highest amount possible. However, a quarter of supply teachers (25%) stated that the agencies and/or umbrella companies had not adjusted furlough payments so they received the highest amount possible each time they were paid and over half (52%) reported that they were not sure.

In respect of the Cabinet Office guidance on the use of contingent labour in the public sector (e.g. at least 80% of salary, capped at £2,500), over two fifths of supply teachers (43%) reported that the school and the agency paid them according with the Cabinet Office advice and guidance when on a live, long-term assignment that was cancelled during the academic year 2020/21 and school closures from January 2021. Thirty-one per cent of supply teachers reported that some of the schools and the agencies where they were working paid them according to the Cabinet Office guidance. Just under one in 20 supply teachers (4%) reported that all of the schools and the agencies where they were working paid them according to the Cabinet Office guidance and over one fifth of supply teachers (22%) reported that the schools and the agencies did not pay them according to the Cabinet Office guidance.

Working for a local authority during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021

Big problem was the guidance stated schools ‘should’ pay. I have many supply friends in similar situations to me who got nothing. Future guidance needs to be mandatory.

Supply teachers were asked about their experiences working for a local authority during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021.

Of those supply teachers working on long-term assignments that were cancelled by a local authority or local authorities due to Covid-19, just under two thirds of supply teachers (64%) reported that they were not reinstated on their original terms and did not continue to be paid according to advice and guidance from the Welsh Government.

Twenty-nine per cent of supply teachers reported that the local authority reinstated them and paid them on their original terms according to advice and guidance from the Welsh Government and just over one in 20 supply teachers (7%) reported that all the local authorities reinstated them and paid them on their original terms according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government.

64% of supply teachers working for a local authority were not reinstated on their original terms and paid according to advice and guidance from the Welsh Government

In regard to casual or ad hoc assignments that were cancelled due to Covid-19, over four fifths of supply teachers (82%) reported that the authority or local authorities where they were working did not pay them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government (e.g. 80% of typical pay, based on a retrospective audit of the average days or hours worked) and just over one in 20 supply teachers (6%) stated that the local authority they were working for paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government. Just over one in 20 (6%) stated that some of the local authorities paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government and just over one in 20 (6%) of supply teachers reported that all the local authorities paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government.

Working directly for a school during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021

Supply teachers were asked about their experiences working directly for a school during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown from January 2021.

For those supply teachers working on long-term assignments that were cancelled by the school/schools due to Covid-19, over half (53%) reported that they were not reinstated on their original terms and did not continue to be paid according to advice and guidance from the Welsh Government. Over a third (35%) stated that the school reinstated them and paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government, whereas just over one in ten respondents (12%) stated that all of the schools reinstated them and paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government.

In regard to casual or ad hoc assignments that were cancelled due to Covid-19, over four fifths of supply teachers (83%) reported that the school/schools where they were working did not pay them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government (e.g. 80% of typical pay, based on a retrospective audit of the average days or hours worked). Just over one in ten supply teachers (11%) stated that the school they were working in paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government and just over one in 20 (6%) stated that all the schools where they were working paid them according to the advice and guidance from the Welsh Government.

Didn’t receive a penny from anyone - schools or county council.

Payments for long-term assignments that were cancelled due to Covid-19 during the academic year 2020/21
Experiences of supply teachers when undertaking work in schools during the 2020/21 academic year

Well over two fifths (47%) of supply teachers reported that they are always made to feel welcome by the senior leadership in schools and just under two fifths (38%) stated that they are often made to feel welcome by the senior leadership in schools. However, 13% said that they are rarely made to feel welcome by the senior leadership in schools and 2% stated that they are never made to feel welcome by the senior leadership in schools.

When asked how welcome they are made to feel by the staff in schools, almost half of supply teachers (49%) reported that they are always made to feel welcome and well over two fifths (45%) reported that they are often made to feel welcome by the staff in schools. However, just under one in 20 (4%) reported that they are rarely made to feel welcome by the staff in schools and 2% reported that they are never made to feel welcome by staff in schools.

When asked how welcome they are made to feel by the pupils in schools, almost half of supply teachers (49%) reported that they are always made to feel welcome and just over a third (34%) reported that they are often made to feel welcome by pupils in schools. However, over one in ten (13%) reported that they are rarely made to feel welcome by the pupils and just under one in 20 (4%) stated that they are never made to feel welcome by the pupils.

In respect of being made to feel welcome by the parents, well over a third of supply teachers (37%) stated that they are always made to feel welcome and just under half (47%) stated that they are made to feel welcome by the parents. However, just over one in ten (11%) stated that they are rarely made to feel welcome by the parents and one in 20 (5%) stated that they are never made to feel welcome by the parents.

How welcome were you made to feel on entering schools during the 202/21 academic year?

Supply teachers who were able to secure work during the 2020/21 academic year were asked about the provision of key information by the agency and/or the school when undertaking an assignment.

Just under half of supply teachers (48%) stated that they were not given the school’s overall risk assessment by the agency, compared to just over a quarter of supply teachers (26%) who stated that they were not given the information by the school.

Just under two fifths of supply teachers (39%) stated that they were not given the procedures and protective measures for staff to follow to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 by the agency. This compares to 14% of supply teachers who stated that they were not provided with the information by the school.

Just over one fifth of supply teachers (21%) stated that they were not given the arrangements in place for supply teachers to report safely to the workplace by the agency, compared to just under a quarter of supply teachers (23%) who stated that they were not provided with the information by the school.

Just over three fifths of supply teachers (61%) stated that they were not given the details of the procedures and arrangements to ensure there was adequate time for supply teachers to be made aware of, and understand, the systems in place in respect of Covid-19 by the agency. This compares to over a third of supply teachers (35%) who stated that they were not provided with the information by the school.

Almost two fifths of supply teachers (39%) stated that they were not provided with the details of any designated contact(s) for any questions, problems or emergencies (Covid-specific or otherwise) by the agency. This compares to just under a quarter of supply teachers (23%) who stated that they were not provided with the information by the school.

Well over two fifths of supply teachers (45%) stated that they were not provided with the details of the arrangements to maintain social distancing of both staff and students by the agency, compared to 13% of supply teachers who stated that they were not provided with the information by the school.

Well over half of supply teachers (55%) stated that the agency did not make them aware of the details of the steps and procedures in place for asymptomatic testing, including for supply teachers. This compares to almost a quarter of supply teachers (24%) who stated that they were not made aware of the details by the school.

Supply teachers denied access to key information during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 pandemic

Just under three quarters of supply teachers (73%) stated that they were not provided with the details of the contact person for obtaining the relevant NHS Test and Trace notification from the school, should they have needed to apply for the Self Isolation Support Payment, by the agency. This compares to well over two fifths of supply teachers (44%) who stated that they were not provided with the information by the school.

Health and safety issues for supply teachers during the academic year 2020/21
Health and safety issues for supply teachers during the academic year 2020/21
Rates of pay for supply teachers who were not paid in line with the NPS during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 pandemic

In respect of rates of pay, supply teachers who were able to secure work through an agency on the National Procurement Service (NPS) were asked if they had been paid in line with at least the equivalent rate of M1 (£138.56 for the academic year 2020/21). Seventy-one per cent reported that they had been paid in line with at least the equivalent rate of M1, whereas just under a quarter of supply teachers (24%) stated that this was not the case.

For those supply teachers who were not paid in line with the arrangements set by the NPS for the academic year 2020/21, just under a third (31%) stated that they were paid between £51 and £119 per day for assignments, just under two fifths (38%) stated that they were paid at between £120 and £149 a day, and over one in ten (12%) stated that they were paid at between £150 and £199 a day for assignments. Only 6% stated that they were paid at over £200 per day for assignments. Over one in ten (13%) stated that they were paid at less than £50 per day for assignments.

Rates of pay for supply teachers who were not paid in line with the NPS during the academic year 2020/21 and the Covid-19 pandemic

At the end of the academic year I was in the position of having to accept a lower rate of pay for a school just over the border or risk not getting any work at all.

Well over half of supply teachers (57%) indicated that the rates of pay received during the academic year 2020/21 were the same as those they were able to earn prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, whereas over a quarter (27%) reported that the rates of pay received were less than those they were able to earn prior to the pandemic. Sixteen per cent said that the rates of pay received had increased compared to those they were able to earn prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Financial situation during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021

Supply teachers were asked about their financial situation during the academic year 2020/21 and the subsequent lockdown.

Financial situation during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021

Over a quarter of supply teachers (27%) reported that they had sourced work elsewhere other than teaching during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021. Of those, 94% stated that the work sourced elsewhere other than teaching failed to provide the same level of financial income that they would have obtained had they been able to secure work teaching.

Just under a quarter of supply teachers (24%) reported having to claim some form of state benefit during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January (e.g. Universal Credit) and just over two fifths of respondents (42%) stated that they had experienced financial hardship as a supply teacher over the same period.

Teaching4Wales paid me £100 including holiday pay. I left.

Cut back on all consumables.

42% stated that they had experienced financial hardship as a supply teacher

Just over a third of supply teachers (34%) reported that they were required to self-isolate during the academic year 2020/21 and the lockdown from January 2021. Of those, over half (55%) reported that their employer did not make them aware of whether they were eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and well over a quarter of supply teachers (28%) reported that they did not know.

A third of supply teachers (33%) who were required to self-isolate reported that they were not eligible for any financial support (e.g. Self-isolation Support Payment) and well over half (56%) reported that they did not know.

Finding supply work was hard before Covid, but to not have any money during the first lockdown was extremely hard and had an effect on my mental health.

A third of supply teachers (33%) reported that they do not feel they are being treated with respect and dignity during the Covid-19 pandemic

If teachers get little respect from students and parents then supply teachers really are the lowest of the low.

I get casual snide remarks such as ‘you’re not a real teacher’, ‘you’re doing supply work because you are no good’…

I hate doing supply teaching.

Ways in which the Welsh Government could best support supply teachers during the ongoing pandemic, as well as moving forward

As a result of poor work availability and repeated cancellation of assignments, I’m seriously considering not doing any more supply if possible. I’m currently working in an administration job and intend to take further qualifications to get away from the haphazard nature of supply.

Conclusion

This is the second NASUWT supply teachers’ survey undertaken against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 2021 survey further highlights the importance of supply teachers and the crucial role they have played during the academic year 2020/21, particularly in helping schools and colleges manage the worst excesses of the pandemic and the lockdown from January 2021.

However, the survey still demonstrates that the experiences of supply teachers throughout the pandemic and academic year 2020/21, whether working through a local authority, directly for a school and/or through a supply agency, have been mixed.

Changes to furlough during the academic year 2020/21 had a significant detrimental impact on a number of supply teachers who were able to access some level of financial income, particularly when schools were partially closed during the lockdown from January 2021.

Other supply teachers working through a local authority or directly for a school continued to see assignments cancelled with little or no reference to Government advice and guidance, which would have seen supply teachers paid accordingly, a situation that appears to have been compounded for those undertaking ad hoc or daily supply assignments.

For some supply teachers there is more work available, including through schemes such as the Recruit, Recover and Raise Standards (RRRS) programme, but for others this is not the case. Even when more work is available and schools need to draw upon the experience and expertise of supply teachers, this is not reflected in the rates of pay which have not been uplifted to reflect issues to do with shortages of supply teachers.

The lack of financial support available to supply teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic and the failure of the Government to act has resulted in a situation where a number of supply teachers have been placed in a precarious financial situation where they have had to make tough decisions about their expenditure or rely on the increased use of credit or the generosity of family and friends to make ends meet. Some supply teachers have been forced to claim Universal Credit and there are those who have had to rely on food banks. This has exposed the disparity between the pay of supply teachers and others.

In addition, there are concerns that these disparities in treatment are impacting disproportionately on women, Black groups and disabled teachers, who are more likely to be employed on precarious supply teaching contracts. There is a pressing need to address the failures of the market in teacher supply, which is having profoundly adverse equalities impacts.

Furthermore, the stress and anxiety felt by some supply teachers during the academic year 2020/21 has not been alleviated by the failure of many agencies, schools and local authorities to provide even the most basic health and safety information to enable hard-working and dedicated supply teachers to feel confident when undertaking an assignment.

In this context, the results from the 2021 survey reaffirm and reinforce the pressing need for action on the part of the Government to address the concerns of hard-working and dedicated supply teachers, who make an important and significant contribution to the public education system, and ensure that they are afforded some level of financial support going forward.

The full survey report can be downloaded on the right/below.