Supply teachers in England are working together for a Better Deal because of the failure of governments and employers to give teachers a fully funded pay award

The pay disparity between supply teachers and other teachers and the precarious financial situation many supply teachers suffer were further exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic and have been compounded by the cost-of-living crisis.

It is time to end the casualisation of the labour market and ensure that professionally qualified supply teachers are paid accordingly.

We need structures that directly employ supply teachers in order to manage the demand for supply teachers effectively, deliver better value and secure improvements to supply teachers’ pay and conditions.

We have produced this advice and guidance to assist Workplace Representatives, Local Associations and supply teachers when seeking to discuss and bargain on behalf of supply members.

Local Associations may want to consider delegating issues relating to supply teachers to a specific member of the Local Association structure. Issues relating to supply teachers should also be scheduled as a regular agenda item at meetings.

This would help promote awareness of issues relating to supply teachers at a local level, as well as assist in gathering and sharing intelligence which can be used to inform the work of the Union on a regional and national level.

To this end, the Union has produced a number of resources which can be used to campaign for a Better Deal for England’s Supply Teachers, including arguments to advocate for well-managed and maintained banks of directly employed supply teachers operated by multi-academy trusts (MATs), local authorities or clusters of schools.

These banks would offer:

  • access to a proper pay structure;

  • the potential to access pay progression, including threshold applications;

  • access to in-service training;

  • the ability to become familiar with the pupils, the staff and the school, including policies and procedures; and

  • access to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (TPS).

There are also considerable advantages for schools too, including:

  • a more stable learning experience with positive outcomes in the behaviour of children and young people;

  • the ability to embed supply teachers in the school community and have a regular, professional, collaborative relationship with a pool of qualified supply teachers;

  • a dedicated pool of fully qualified supply teachers exclusively available across schools in the area;

  • a maintained list of fully vetted and qualified supply teachers who have been quality assured;

  • the ability to eliminate costly transfer/finder’s fees charged to schools by supply agencies;

  • the ability to manage the workforce flexibly and more effectively, including selecting suitably qualified supply teachers, contacting them and engaging them as appropriate;

  • the ability to manage supply costs across a local authority/MAT more efficiently; and

  • a local authority or MAT contact for liaison and resolving issues.

Most importantly, this would enable schools to realise significant savings on agency costs/commission.

A survey conducted by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) confirms that more than 70% of secondary school headteachers have increased their spending on agency supply teachers in the three years to 2018. One of the key factors cited in the ASCL survey for the increased expenditure was increased supply agency fees (54% of respondents). [1]

NASUWT Representatives and/or supply teachers may wish to consider making a Freedom of Information request on behalf of the Union, seeking information from the local authority or individual schools on how they engage supply teachers and the costs associated. This could include a breakdown of the amount spent on supply teachers during the previous academic year.

Local authority schools are expected to record and report this information, including distinguishing between the amount spent on supply teaching staff and that spent on agency supply teaching staff.

A model template letter is available on our Better Deal for England’s Supply Teachers Resources page.

This information can be used to inform any meeting in discussing the establishment or re-establishment of local banks or supply pools run by MATs, local authorities or clusters of schools, including advocating the merits of employing supply teachers on flexible contracts or directly on an ad hoc basis.

Despite the changes which have taken place in education, there is nothing that prohibits such arrangements being adopted by MATs, local authorities or a cluster of schools.

In circumstances where a MAT, local authority or a cluster of schools does not want to establish a maintained bank of directly employed supply teachers, NASUWT Representatives and/or supply teachers should look to discuss alternative arrangements which are seen as a more ethical alternative, such as The Supply Register.

Where a MAT, local authority or a cluster of schools wants to continue with the use of agencies, NASUWT Representatives and/or supply teachers should push for a limit on the level of commission that an agency can charge, a commitment to increased rates of pay for supply teachers, and reviewing such arrangements each academic year.

The NASUWT continues to highlight the fact that the increased reliance on agency working has led to a reduction in the pay and conditions of service of supply teachers. Supply teachers’ rates of pay have remained stagnant for the overwhelming majority of supply teachers and have been eroded by inflation.

NASUWT Representatives and/or supply teachers should use the resources on the Supply Teachers pages to make similar arguments with those agencies operating in their area.

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