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Schools increasingly using unqualified staff to cover teacher absence

This Saturday’s annual NUT Supply Teacher Conference will hear that employment prospects for supply teachers are getting tougher, as schools increasingly use unqualified staff in place of qualified supply teachers to cover teacher absence.

The NUT’s 2017 supply teacher survey, which received a record 1,300 responses, shows that 41% of agency supply teachers say that getting work is becoming increasingly hard – up from 35% last year. Less than one third of agency teachers (32%) say they can get work almost every day – down from just over half last year – while 39% can only get work about half the time, and more than one in ten are being offered no work for weeks at a time.

More and more secondary schools are now using unqualified staff to supervise classes when teachers are absent, instead of employing professional supply teachers who are trained, qualified and experienced to teach the particular subject to secondary school students. This affects students’ education as well as denying work to supply teachers.  Freedom of Information requests submitted to secondary schools in Sefton show that, in the week of 5 March 2017, 640 lessons (3.5% of all lessons) in the borough’s 17 secondary schools were supervised by unqualified staff rather than being taught by a qualified teacher. Just one of Sefton’s secondary schools had no lessons supervised by unqualified staff in the given week.

Today’s conference will discuss the NUT’s ongoing campaign to secure better pay and pension rights for supply teachers, through a new employment model which removes the role of supply teacher agencies and the consequent cost to schools. The 2017 NUT survey shows that the majority of supply teachers continue to be paid less than £125 per day, giving them less than £25,000 a year before tax and other deductions even if they were able to get work every day.

Kevin Courtney, General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers’ union, said:

“The Government needs to take urgent action on supply teaching. Agencies have been ripping off schools for years and have no place in the education system. They pay supply teachers appallingly badly, but their charges are increasingly driving schools to turn to unqualified staff instead, harming students’ education.”

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