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EDITIONS
Monday, 6 August, 2001, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Councils set up own teacher agencies
teacher in classroom
Many schools are struggling to put teachers in classrooms
Education authorities are setting up their own teacher supply agencies to try to recruit more staff to fill vacancies.


It's nice for teachers to know they are not having part of their salaries creamed off

Nottingham City spokeswoman
Nottingham City Council is establishing a scheme which promises teachers nationally-agreed pay and conditions - and no commission charges off the money they earn.

Having advertised in May it has had more than 160 enquiries. So far the authority has completed stringent checks on 30 supply teachers and expects to have more available by the start of the new term next month.

Nottingham did not realise that its counterpart in North East Lincolnshire had set up a similar register called Nelstar last year, and now has some 280 teachers on its books.


It's something that the private sector, working in partnership with LEAs, can do better

Supply agency managing director
Other education authorities have taken an interest.

But private supply agencies doubt that LEAs can compete with them.

Tish Seabourne, managing director of the TimePlan agency, said that if authorities concentrated on retaining the teachers they had already - treating them as respected professionals - then they would not have such recruitment problems.

Quality control

A spokeswoman for Nottingham City said: "We are paying teachers the national pay and conditions, so we are not creaming off fees.

"There may be a very small admin charge, but we hope it will be self-financing - we are not aiming to make a profit.

"It's nice for teachers to know they are not having part of their salaries creamed off, so a lot of people have responded very positively to the idea."

She said another aspect of the scheme would be quality control. If a school complained about a teacher it supplied and the complaint was found to be justified, the teacher would be "weeded out" and not sent to any other schools.

North East Lincolnshire LEA began its scheme in April last year, after initial funding from the Department for Education and Skills to do a feasibility study.

Pension entitlement

A spokeswoman said it had achieved an 88% success rate in supplying schools with the teachers they had sought.

Most of its recruits had been from the local area - teachers who had taken early retirement, or had been out of the profession and were looking to return.

To find supply cover, Nelstar charges schools 156 per day for a typical teacher on the top of the pay scale, which includes an administration charge of less than 10 - the rest goes to the teacher.

It promises teachers annual pay rises in line with the national recommendations for England and Wales, eligibility for the teachers' pensions scheme, and the chance of ongoing training.

She said there had been interest in the scheme from other education authorities, such as Sheffield.

'Old list was a joke'

TimePlan's Tish Seabourne said typical supply agency charges were about 125 a day, or up to 156 in London, for a teacher on the top of the pay scale, with gross profit margins in the industry in the region of 20%.

"I'm very dubious about LEAs being able to organise this kind of thing themselves," she said. "It seems like a backward step to me.

"We were the first agency. One of the reasons we started in 1989 was that the old LEA supply list used to be full of people who were dead or had moved. It was a joke among head teachers."

The key was finding the teachers to do the job. TimePlan had seven overseas offices and she could not imagine an individual education authority stretching to that.

"It's something that the private sector, working in partnership with LEAs, can do better," she said.

"They are going to have administration costs - they have got to vet the teachers, to interview them and advertise...

"Most LEAs find that once you have added up all those costs it's cheaper to use an agency.

"We make a profit out of efficiency, and we have got massive economies of scale."

See also:

25 Jun 01 | UK Education
13 Mar 01 | UK Education
19 Jan 01 | UK Education
02 Feb 01 | UK Education
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