Shadow Education Secretary, Angela Rayner, yesterday 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.

Proposals include the introduction of a new national Substitute Teacher Register as well as plans to examine the feasibility of setting up a state supply agency and whether further regulation of supply teacher fees is needed to put an end to ‘exorbitant and escalating’ costs.

The idea of a National Substitute Teacher Register is, in theory, a perfect solution to rectifying spiralling agency spend, and we welcome Labour’s intentions.

However, while this system has worked successfully in Northern Ireland for many years, in England and Wales the market is very different. In Northern Ireland there is an abundance of talent and a shortage of jobs. Here, the reverse is true.

While local authorities have managed education recruitment regionally in the past, reduced budgets mean that the majority are now unable to fund these services. And although the idea of a state supply agency is also an admirable suggestion, it would require a huge amount of investment to not only establish, but also manage in terms of compliance to ensure that teachers are deployed safely and reliably.

In principle it’s a great idea, whether it’s logistically feasible is another matter.

We would welcome further regulation of supply teacher fees to stop the exorbitant and escalating costs seen in the industry in recent years. Pay is inextricably linked with successful teaching and remuneration is often the deciding factor for teachers moving jobs.

Until the government mandates a pay structure for professionals across all schools and local authorities, teachers will continue to switch roles to get a better deal, which will only heighten movement and reduce retention.

Baljinder Kuller, Managing Director, The Supply Register

About Baljinder Kuller: Baljinder has over 15 years’ experience in education recruitment, and is now MD of an online supply teacher portal.

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