Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner has announced plans for a Labour government to save cash strapped schools over half a billion pounds a year through a major shake-up of the supply teacher system.
At the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool, the Shadow Education Secretary outlined plans to introduce a new national Substitute Teacher Register to end the spiralling cost to schools of hiring supply teachers, which cost £556 million on recruitment agency fees alone in 2015/16, an average of over £25,000 for every school in England.
The national Substitute Teacher Register would be similar to a system already used in Northern Ireland, which allows schools to book the teachers they need at short notice from a government held register of accredited teachers in the local area. This simple system alleviates the need for schools to pay expensive agency fees to find suitable teachers, allowing those savings to be used on teachers, resources and essentials that many schools are struggling to afford.
As well as developing the national Substitute Teacher Register, Labour has also announced plans to examine the feasibility of setting up a state supply agency to compete within the market, and following calls from the National Association of Head Teachers, also whether further regulation of supply teacher fees is needed to stop the exorbitant and escalating costs seen in the industry in recent years.
The cost of agency fees for supply teachers has grown dramatically in recent years, with total costs rising around 20% in the past five years. These increasing costs have compounded the problems many schools are facing to get the staff that they need under this government.
The teacher recruitment target has been missed in five consecutive years, teacher training applications are down by a third in the last year, and teachers are now leaving the profession in record numbers, faster than new teachers join the profession. This leads to schools being increasingly reliant on supply agencies to get the staff they need week to week, with the government doing little to tackle the problem.
Angela Rayner MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“At a time when our schools have to ask parents to give extra money for books and classroom essentials, it’s crazy we’re spending half a billion pounds a year just on agency fees. That money should be spent on teachers and the badly needed resources our children need to get a world class education, and under a Labour government it would.
“Our straightforward, simple and proven policy will save hundreds of millions of pounds a year and help schools find the talented teachers they need. While the Tories obsess over damaging and unnecessary changes to the education system, Labour will keep on producing sensible policies that will save our schools money and give our kids a better education.”
Responding to the speech at Labour Party conference by Angela Rayner MP, John Cope, CBI Head of Education and Skills, said:
“Education is the number one driver of productivity, and the key to a fairer society – two issues business fundamentally cares about. The Shadow Education Secretary asks the right questions on lifelong learning, tackling education ‘cold spots’, and needing to improve school governance. Given the fast pace of reform since 2010, now is not the time for a potentially disruptive and top-down reorganisation.
"The independent Education Policy Institute recently found 14 of the top 20 secondary school providers were academy groups, showing academies are a valuable part of the schools system.
“Business wants to hear more details of what Labour’s ‘National Education Service’ proposal means for the issues that matter – improving often woeful careers advice, improving technical education through apprenticeships and T-levels, and how to equip people with the transferable skills needed to adapt to new technologies.”