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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 23:31 GMT
Capital cost of supply teachers
Many London schools rely on supply teachers
Schools in London are spending thousands of pounds every year on supply teachers and many are unsatisfied with the quality of service offered by supply agencies, a survey suggests.

The poll, by the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) found more than 80 schools spent between 40,000 and 200,000 on supply staff in the academic year 2001/02.

One primary school in south London reported spending more than half a million pounds on supply teachers and a secondary school spent more than 450,000.

NAHT survey findings
Over 80 schools spent 50,000 to 200,000
25 of those spent 100,000 to 200,000
40 primaries spent 50,000 to 200,000
One spent 500,000
Three secondaries spent over 200,000
Two special schools spent over 100,000 and one over 200,000

Supply agencies have rejected the suggestion that they are not providing a good service to schools.

The NAHT survey, completed by 369 schools, also found only 100 (27%) were confident the teachers provided by the agencies would have qualified teacher status.

Only a third were confident that the staff provided would be competent in the subject or age range required.

And just 84 (23%) were confident that the teachers provided would be familiar with National Curriculum requirements.

Just over half - 200 or 54% - were confident checks on criminal records and List 99, the Department for Education list of people unsuitable to work with children, would have been carried out effectively.

The survey findings come as schools in London struggle to recruit and retain staff.

Many are resorting to "poaching" teachers from overseas.

Later this month, London-based members of the two largest classroom unions will stage a one-day strike in protest at cost-of-living allowances for the capital.

Many say they cannot afford to live in London and are forced to look for teaching posts elsewhere in the UK.

'Thumbs down'

David Hart, general secretary of the NAHT, said the poll results were disappointing.

"Our survey gives the 'thumbs down' to teacher agencies on both cost and quality," said Mr Hart.

"The expense of employing their supply staff is bleeding school budgets dry.

"Urgent steps need to be taken to stabilise the London teaching force and to stop schools having to pour money into agencies' pockets for a service which is of generally poor quality."

'No surprise'

But Tish Seabourne, managing director of the supply agency Timeplan, said her organisation took "great care" in matching key stage and subject specialists to vacancies.

David Hart
David Hart: Concerned about teacher shortages in London
Ms Seabourne said the pressure on schools to fill vacancies inevitably meant bills for supply staff.

"Given the general teacher shortage and the number of unfilled vacancies that schools have to cope with, it is not surprising that schools have such a high reliance on supply teachers, the majority of whom are recruited by agencies," she said.

"Given the significant reliance on overseas trained supply teachers it is not surprising that a large number do not have British QTS initially, although the majority go on to gain British QTS quickly once in the UK, since they are already qualified teachers in their own countries.

"Some countries, notably New Zealand, Australia and Canada and some parts of South Africa and the USA, have arguably better teacher training than the UK," she said.

The NAHT found the five main agencies used by London schools were Protocol, Timeplan, Capita, Select and Teaching Personnel.

Vital service

Select rejected its findings.

Its chief executive, Bob Wicks, said: "Without professional supply teacher agencies, many London schools would not be able to function.

"We have invested millions in recruiting teachers, including high quality overseas staff, and in providing an infrastructure and high service levels to schools and supply teachers."

He added: "If an emergency supply teacher does not have specific relevant national curriculum or key stage experience, the head should be aware of that in advance. They decide whether to use that teacher or not.

"Without our services, classes would simply not have teachers."

See also:

23 Sep 02 | Education
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05 Nov 01 | Education
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