School spending on supply teacher agencies jumps by a fifth in three years

School spending on supply teacher agencies has jumped by a fifth in three years, figures reveal, as MPs warn that the Government has no long term strategy to address staff shortages.

The amount that schools spend on recruitment agency fees alone has increased by almost a fifth (18.5 per cent) in the past four years, from £469 million in 2012/13 to £556 million in 2015/16.

These figures exclude the spend for academies, which means the overall cost for academies and free schools – which now represent the majority of schools – will be substantially higher.

Such is the demand for supply teachers that agencies typically charge a commission fee of up to 30 per cent – which is almost double the industry average.

It comes as the education select committee warn that the Government has no long term strategy to address the shortage of teachers in England.

Neil Carmichael MP, the chair of the select committee, told The Telegraph said the Government must do more to reduce the burdens placed on school budgets by supply teacher agencies.

“Obviously a burden of that scale is very difficult and very challenging to the overall education budget, which is constrained,” he said.

“The answer to that is to deal with recruitment and deal with retention – there is no point in tackling things around the edges, we have to be fundamental and strategic.”

Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said that agencies have got schools “over a barrel”.

“Teachers are leaving the profession in droves and school leaders are being forced to try and fill the gap with agency supply teachers,” she said.

“The spiralling cost of agency supply teachers shows what happens when the government fails to invest in education – it ends up costing the public purse a lot more.”

Baljinder Kuller, director at The Supply Register, said it is a “lack of alternatives” for schools that allow supply teacher agencies to charge extortionate rates.

“They are shouting very loudly about the fact there is a national teacher shortage,” he said. “Education recruitment is the fastest growing recruitment sector, with more and more opening year on year because it is such a lucrative market place.”

The Supply Register, a computerised recruitment system that allows schools to cut out agencies and hire teachers directly, uses similar technology to that used by around 20 NHS Trusts to access locum doctors and nurses.

Another company, MyTutor, provides £18-an-hour online tutorials for students and is used by hundreds of schools around the country instead of hiring teaching assistants through agencies.

“Agencies charge for introductory fees, hourly fees, day rates, commission – the agencies are holding schools to ransom, outside London in particular where there are less teachers available,” James Grant, director of MyTutor said.

Andrew Morris, head of pay and pensions at the National Union of Teachers, said that the huge fees charged by agencies to schools are “completely unacceptable”, adding: “This is money for children’s education, not for the profits of private companies.”

Chris Keates, general secretary of The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, added that costs are rising not because “unscrupulous” providers are “profiteering from children’s education.”

A report published this week warned that the Government has no long-term strategy to deal with the shortage of teachers.

The Education Select Committee report found that the Department for Education missed its recruitment targets for teachers for the past five years, and adds that teacher retention is a major problem.

The report calls for a cap on hours to encourage teachers to stay in the profession. “The Committee finds the Government lacks a long-term plan to address teacher shortages and consistently fails to meet teacher recruitment targets,” MPs found.

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