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The NASUWT is continuing to campaign for all supply teachers to be able to access financial assistance to support them through the impact of the pandemic. Here, one supply teacher member explains the impact the Coronavirus crisis has had on her financially and emotionally as a qualified and experienced teacher.  

Like many supply teachers, Deborah has had to fall back on her savings to survive financially after the majority of agencies which employed her refused to furlough as teaching work became unavailable.

At the start of the pandemic in early spring 2020, Deborah, who lives in  
Nottinghamshire and teaches secondary science, had a potential long-term assignment cut short and she was declined furlough by her main agency. Other agencies where she undertook short assignments did offer furlough, but this amounted to relatively small payments.

Even when schools fully reopened to all pupils in September 2020, it was October before Deborah was offered any work; however, having fallen ill with a respiratory infection, she was unable to work and was not considered eligible for Statutory Sick Pay by that agency.

During the current lockdown only one of her agencies has agreed to furlough Deborah; her other agencies have developed their own criteria for refusing furlough or cited the cost of paying National Insurance and pension contributions as a barrier.

“I feel the furlough scheme has not been effectively thought out,” she says. “I am a professional teacher, this is my job, and yet there is no safety net despite claims that the government’s CJRS has been the most generous in the world”.

Having to use her savings through the pandemic concerns her, as she is facing a lower pension entitlement since she had to reduce her working hours earlier in her career to raise a family. “Lots of supply teachers are women in the same position as me, who will not get a full pension and are strongly affected by the lack of financial support during this pandemic.”

The NASUWT has been lobbying Government for changes to ensure all supply teachers can access furlough or financial support, and Deborah believes ministers should make it mandatory for all agencies to furlough their staff, with payments backdated.

Looking ahead, she believes supply teachers have a vital role in the recovery of children’s education from the pandemic. “There is an army of highly qualified and experienced supply teachers who could be employed to help with education recovery, rather than simply depending on volunteers or unqualified individuals.”

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