There is little doubt within the teaching profession that challenges concerning recruitment and retention have created an environment where spending on supply teachers has spiralled out of control. According to official figures from the Department for Education national spending on the provision of cover teachers rose to £1.3 billion, a £300 million increase on just two years prior.
Many of the problems schools face come as a result of the high levels of attrition in the profession, with Schools Minister Nick Gibb recently indicating that just under a third of state school teachers who qualified in 2010 had left the profession by 2015. Mr Gibb went on to confirm that of the 24,100 newly qualified teachers who entered state schools in 2010, 87 per cent were still there after one year. However this fell to 82 per cent after two years, 77 per cent after three years, 73 per cent after four years and just 70 per cent after five years.
The peak of the staffing crisis comes at a time when schools are already struggling to cope with diminishing budgets and ever rising costs. However, unlike many other professions – where professionals’ pay increases in line with demand – supply teachers and cover supervisors aren’t necessarily feeling the benefits of the rising scarcity of talent, even despite schools having to pay over the odds to ensure that all of their classes are sufficiently staffed.
Given the costly nature of running an agency and sourcing quality candidates, the average daily fee charged by some supply agencies can be as much as £100 higher than professionals actual daily pay rate. However with numerous levels of management, offices, staff, endless phone calls and costly trips overseas to source candidates, it’s understandable that even the most conscientious of recruitment companies are forced to charge considerable fees for their services.
In the past, schools relied on sourcing supply teachers through their own networks, however in the last 15 to 20 years there has been a significant drop in such practices, with teacher recruitment from local authority supported provisions falling to as little eight per cent. Countless surveys indicate that both teachers and schools prefer to establish a more personal and direct relationship, but with the need for even more compliance checks this is becoming increasingly difficult.
There is a real need to encourage a more collaborative and sustainable way to source candidates at sustainable prices, which ensures that candidates are paid fairly and that schools struggling to manage funding cuts aren’t crippled by additional fees. The only way to solve the current crisis, and help address the dearth of talent in the profession is for teachers and schools to work closer together to build strong professional relationships. However that doesn’t, at all, mean that recruiters should be removed from the supply chain.
The Supply Register firmly believes that a collaborative ‘bank first’ approach that works to build relationships between professionals and schools themselves is the best way to address the challenges the sector is facing. By partnering with other local schools and academies to create banks of reliable and easily accessible talent, schools can work together to establish valuable relationships with their supply teachers, while also ensuring that they are paid fairly.
By using a system which works to tap into pools of localised talent, before filtering down to a selection of reliable agencies which understand the needs of the sector and strive to offer the best value, schools can work to bridge the talent gap. By establishing a more personal and direct relationship between supply teachers – who are often newly qualified – and schools the entire sector can work to prevent educators from leaving the profession.
Schools are often left with little time to ensure that a class doesn’t go unstaffed and for many, relying on their incumbent agency to source cover supervision has become the norm, but the sector needs to innovate if it is to address the ongoing crisis. Embracing new collaborative approaches, such as The Supply Register, will no doubt begin to help schools to bridge the talent gap while sustaining the quality of young people’s educations.