Esme Bianchi-Barry, CEO of Affinity Workforce

With the education sector battling through a recruitment challenge, fuelled by a shortage of full-time teaching applicants, schools and MATs are increasingly relying on supply teachers to fill the gap.

Supply teachers provide an essential cost-effective solution across a tightly funded sector, however, it’s vital that teaching quality remains high, and the lack of a permanent teacher in the classroom doesn’t impact the learning taking place.

At Affinity Workforce, we’ve been helping schools and academies to recruit great teachers for more than 25 years. However, we have seen in recent years that there is a growing disparity between the training that supply teachers receive compared to their counterparts in school.

Supply teachers are often only provided with mandatory training as standard through their agencies, meaning there’s potential for them to miss training sessions which permanent members of staff would be required to attend. This can lead to supply teachers missing crucial information such as new ways of teaching and curriculum developments. Schools and MATs on the other hand, must designate five inset days for their staff’s Continuing Professional Development (CPD) per academic year, with each of these five days being allocated six hours of directed time. This means that they are always up to speed on the latest teaching standards.

However, with the right focus on CPD for short-term candidates, this skills gap can be narrowed, providing schools with access to a flexible and highly qualified workforce.

The requirement for up-to-date training has been highlighted more than ever as a result of COVID-19. During multiple lockdowns, under enormous pressures and mass disruption, teaching staff tackled the challenge of a digital learning switch head-on to support their pupils. However, some teachers struggled with their digital capabilities, which has opened up an important learning opportunity within the sector as a whole.

The potential of digital technology in teaching practice is huge and, with the right training in place, teachers will be able to deliver on it. Skilling up staff will not only build confidence in teaching via remote learning platforms but will also have a positive impact in the classroom. Teachers will be able to nurture tech skills in their pupils, leading to better online learning outcomes and building students’ digital knowledge to enable them to thrive in tomorrow’s workplace.

Mental health is another is a key area for training that has been highlighted across the pandemic. It’s essential that staff, whether permanent or supply, are trained on ways to identify if a pupil is struggling with their mental health and understand what support can be put in place to help these individuals.

Critically, schools and MATs need to have access to supply candidates who have completed the most up-to-date training within education, so they can provide exceptional teaching and support.

At Affinity Workforce, we have launched an innovative CPD course aimed at upskilling the supply teaching sector and addressing the current skills shortage. Candidates have access to our ‘CPD Supply Toolkit’ which consists of 10 live, online training sessions delivered by experienced and qualified trainers who have worked in the education sector for more than 30 years. This training is currently delivered within schools, so all candidates will have up-to-date knowledge and an understanding of new ways of working. Topics include new ways of working post-pandemic, from Google Classrooms, remote learning platforms and e-safety, through to supporting children’s mental health in a school setting.

As agencies are under no obligation to provide the same level of training for their short-term candidates as that which permanent teachers have access to, the skills gap is at risk of widening, which will impact teaching delivery and fundamentally the education of children and young people. Supply teachers who have access to a CPD programme will feel more prepared and empowered to teach a class using the latest training – which is crucial - whatever their level, age or experience.

Comments to be attributed to Esme Bianchi-Barry, CEO of Affinity Workforce

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