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Supply teachers ‘second class citizens’ as pay stagnates

Supply teachers are stuck on “stagnating” pay rates and “treated like second-class citizens”, fuelling a shortage amid booming demand, a union has warned.

Fifty-five per cent of supply teachers surveyed by the NASUWT union said their pay rates had not improved last year. Another 16 per cent of the 697 surveyed said their pay was actually lower.

Just 29 per cent said their pay had increased despite teachers getting a 5 per cent pay rise that year.

Dr Patrick Roach, general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “Supply teachers are a vital part of the education workforce. Yet they are continually treated like second-class citizens in terms of their pay, working conditions and access to pensions.

 “All teachers, regardless of whether they are permanently contracted or working on supply,  should be paid to scale at rates commensurate with their experience.”

In short supply

The government does not publish figures on the number of supply teachers working in England.

But the Recruitment and Employment Federation (REC) said there is a “shortage” and that “teaching agencies, just like schools, want to see greater investment in bringing people to the profession”.

Kate Shoesmith

According to REC analysis, there was an increase of 13 per cent for temporary roles in primary and secondary schools between February 2020 and last month.

There was a 118 per cent surge in such listings for temporary SEND professionals over the same period.

Kate Shoesmith, REC deputy chief executive, said: “The teacher shortage that is affecting substantive staff also extends to supply teachers, with far fewer available now than pre-pandemic.”

Data for Wales shows its total number of supply teachers fell by about 11 per cent from 2018 and 2022.

Niall Bradley, chair of the National Supply Teachers Network, said “anecdotally we think England is the same or worse” than Wales.

“I have got lots of supply teachers telling me agencies they haven’t worked for in years are emailing, calling them up.” One had calls from three different agents in the same day, he said.

The latest official data shows that in 2022-23, some £698 million was spent on supply teaching costs in England, a 12.3 per cent increase from 2021-22.

This apparent rise in demand was reflected in the NASUWT’s latest survey, which found that “for an increasing proportion of supply teachers, the opportunities for work have increased.”

Demand up, but pay stagnating

Two-thirds (66%) of NASUWT survey respondents said they are typically paid no more than £149 a day, less than the equivalent of a teacher on the lowest point of the teacher pay scale, M1.

The latter gets about £153.85 a day, based on a 195-day academic year, NASUWT said.

Over a quarter (28%) said they sourced work outside of teaching during the academic year, while 12 per cent reported having to claim some form of state benefit, such as Universal Credit.

Nearly half said they had experienced financial hardship, while a quarter travelled more than 20 miles for work.

Sharon Calvert, 61, who lives in Knaresborough, in North Yorkshire, is a SEND specialist who has worked as a supply teacher since 2017.

“I know younger teachers who work nights to make ends meet, just so they’ve got money coming in,” she said. “It’s such a precarious situation that people just go and do something else.”

Agencies blamed as profits soar

The National Education Union this week held a rally outside the London office of Teaching Personnel, one of the largest supply agencies, to highlight alleged “gross profiteering and exploitation”.

NEU analysis of the eight leading supply agencies’ most recent accounts revealed their combined turnover was £436.6 million, up 39 per cent on £314.3 million the year before.

Dr Patrick Roach
Dr Patrick Roach

Their combined gross profits surged by 55 per cent to £109 million, up from £70.4 million, the union said.

Roach added that “agencies are charging schools more and, rather than passing on these gains to the supply teachers, they are profiteering … at the expense of hardworking teachers and the taxpayer”.

 The union wants political parties to regulate supply teachers’ pay and conditions and “provide them with the guaranteed rates of pay and access to the teachers’ pension scheme they deserve”.

But Shoesmith said schools and local authorities “set the pay rates for supply teachers, based on national budget allocations – not agencies”.

“The real driver of slower growth in pay rates for supply staff is the huge pressure that school budgets are under,” she added.

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