Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary

Supply teachers are continuing to face serious financial hardship as a result of stagnating, and in some cases deep cuts to rates of pay.

This is among the findings of the latest annual survey of hundreds of supply teachers in England and Wales by the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union.

Just 12% of supply teachers said the level of pay they receive per day has increased in the last 12 months.

Over two thirds (68%) said the supply agency they most recently worked for operates a ceiling on the level of pay for teachers.

At a time of a national teacher supply crisis, one in five supply teachers said they are frequently offered work as a teaching assistant or cover supervisor. 83% said this is at a lower rate of pay than they would receive if they were employed on the school staff as a qualified teacher.

Nearly one in five (17%) said they have been asked by an agency to undertake a ‘free trial’ at a school prior to undertaking paid supply work. 

Nearly half (49%) said they have been asked to sign a contract or agreement with an umbrella company and 42% of these said they have subsequently found themselves paying both their own and their employers National Insurance contributions.

15% said they have been denied access to a permanent post by the agency imposing a finder’s fee on the school.

19% of supply teachers say that in the last year they have had to take on a second job to make ends meet and more than one in ten (11%) has had to claim Jobseekers Allowance, with a further 11% claiming other benefits.

41% said that in the last year they have had to cut back spending on food, 32% have had to delay household repairs and 23% have had to increase their use of credit.

Supply teachers also reported a failure to provide them with essential information about pupils’ needs when starting work at a new school. Nearly half (44%) said they were not made aware by schools of the children they were teaching who had special needs or behavioural problems and nearly a third (29%) said they were not informed about schools’ behaviour management policies. 43% reported that they are not given clear information on the school’s fire evacuation policy.

Chris Keates, NASUWT General Secretary (Acting), said:

“The continuing exploitation of supply teachers who make a vital contribution to the education of children and young people is scandalous.

“The mantra of the majority of supply agencies appears to be to maximise their profits by minimising the pay of supply teachers.

“Unfortunately, too many schools collude with the poor practices of some of the agencies, which the NASUWT survey shows are rife.

“The ‘free trials’ where supply teachers desperate for work are pressured into working for nothing on the vague promise of future employment are just one example of the appalling practices which should be outlawed and demonstrate why not only agencies, but also the terms on which supply teachers are employed by schools, should be regulated.

“Supply teachers find themselves in low paid, insecure and precarious work, facing the unacceptable and iniquitous choice between working below their salary level or getting no work at all.

“This is leaving many supply teachers in increasing financial hardship, reliant on credit, benefits or second jobs to make ends meet.

“Whilst the responsibility rests with government to protect workers’ rights and regulate against these practices, too many schools are complicit in the unacceptable treatment of supply teachers and not just with regards to pay.

“Schools which fail to honour the contractual rights of their permanently employed teachers and force them to cover for absence are seriously affecting the availability of work for supply teachers, whilst at the same time denying their own teachers their rights and adding to their workload.

“The NASUWT is also concerned by the survey findings regarding the health and safety of supply teachers.  Failure by schools to provide supply teachers with vital health and safety information is a serious dereliction of their responsibilities.

“It is also disturbing that supply teachers report not being given essential information about the learning needs of the pupils in the classes they are covering, leaving both the teacher and the pupils vulnerable.

“It is shameful that despite the wealth of damning evidence about the unacceptable treatment of supply teachers that government and employers continue to fail and neglect this important group of working people.

“The survey underlines the importance of the NASUWT’s continuing campaign of fighting for an end to the exploitation of these teachers who provide such a valuable service to children and young people.

“There can be no doubt that rights of supply teachers must be a key question posed to politicians as they set out their commitments on education in the run up to the General Election.”

830 supply teachers in England and Wales responded to the survey during June and July 2019.

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