Demystifying the supply teacher industry… The background

Week one: Demystifying the supply teacher industry… THE BACKGROUND

Data research fuelling these reports was conducted in the academic year 2015/16, throughout Hampshire. These summaries will systematically progress through the reasons why supply staff are required, when and for what cost. Questions are frequently raised in these articles about how supply teaching work is found, by whom and why this is the case. Whilst covering the aforementioned topics, we will attempt to demystify the existing models that are being used within this exposed sector.

Supply teaching is an essential but often a forgotten element of teaching; both complex in its nature, and often unpleasant in its make-up.

Why work as a supply teacher?
Wouldn’t you rather be in a permanent school?
How can you stand the uncertainty of a phone call every morning?

For many full time teachers, these are often questions wondered. The reasons vary from one supply teacher to the next according to the NUT, however there are national trends. The most common reason is the flexibility, able to pick and choose working around personal circumstances or further study. For many others, the decrease in workload played a part; within this the ability to teach a range of topics and subjects to a wide variety of young people is, to some, appealing.

It must be said that among supply staff over 50, very few said it was due to a lack of permanent roles available. This is contrasted to the younger generation in which a quarter said they were using supply work to either enhance their CV or as a ‘money earner’ until they are successful in a permanent position. To continue this point, many have found achieving permanent roles challenging once they have begun working with an agency due to the complicated connection fees involved with some companies.

In the UK, there has been a shift in key areas of resourcing away from council control and into the private sector; supply teaching is no different. 69% of supply teachers now obtain work through recruitment agencies with only 8% going through a talent pool run by local authorities (NUT 2015). Higher demand for supply staff, increased expense and complexity, required to facilitate short term hiring and a lack of staff to update the talent pool; are just some of the reasons given as to why this shift has occurred and continues to gain momentum with the movement of choices and decisions being brought about by the journey towards becoming an academy. One of the major drawbacks of this to many schools, in terms of relationships with private businesses, is the lack of support that comes from a co-ordinated and consolidated approach from their local governing body. Recruitment agencies can influence both supply teacher pay and the cost to schools on an individual school negotiated basis and this has the potential to be exploited by a lack of transparency in the commercial process.

As a direct result of this research, Wydelta has been created to facilitate the communication between schools and supply teachers throughout Hampshire. The platform is free to register and is working successfully in Hampshire schools.

To request a copy of the report in full, please email

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