Teacher shortage and supply spend rise

With current challenges putting considerable pressure on the education sector, including talent retention with many teachers leaving the profession and the consequent increasing difficulty in filling permanent vacancies, compounded with a surge in pupil numbers and budget cuts, unions have warned we are facing a very real crisis in teacher recruitment.

Moreover, this is exacerbated by our ever-growing population, with primary schools under strain, particularly in major cities, and feeding through to secondary schools where head teachers are struggling to find teaching staff and increasingly talking to recruitment agencies about overseas options.

With this in mind, it is little wonder that the industry has witnessed a significant shift in working, with many teachers favouring supply work for the flexibility, greater work/life balance – and in many cases – higher pay – it can bring. Contrary to belief, it is not just retired teachers who are seeing the multiple benefits of supply work – many newly qualified teachers are attracted by the autonomy, manageable workload and reduced stress that it allows. In a survey conducted by NASUWT: The Teacher’s Union, 38% of respondents stated that they were supply teachers because they were unable to find permanent work.

With graduates feeling the pressure of securing permanent employment, supply teaching is becoming more visible as an alternative option for newly qualified teachers, and recognised as the valuable stepping stone it can be.

New official government figures show spending on supply teachers has gone up by almost £300m over two years, with the average amount spent by academies and free schools rising by 42% in a single year.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell said schools face “chronic shortages” of teachers and blamed the government for “talking down the profession”, whilst the Department for Education counteracted with “the number and quality of teachers is at a record high”, branding Labour’s claims as “misleading”. Whichever way it is argued, the statistics show that the amount across all schools has risen by 27% between 2011-12 and 2013-14, with schools on average spending about £59,000 per year on supply agencies.

Rather than pointing the finger of blame, it should be recognised that recruitment agencies have an important part to play in filling these gaps, however, supply cover needn’t be expensive. Now is the time for schools, colleges and education establishments to take action and look to a neutral vendor solution when it comes to procuring supply cover.

As a leading procurer of temporary cover, de Poel education has no financial affiliation to any recruitment agencies and so is completely independent in our ability to offer the very best supply staffing solutions. We work with a select group of local and national education recruitment agencies to drive better value, raise standards and source the best supply workers for schools, academies, colleges and universities. Additionally, we can reduce the cost of supply spend by up to 15% and our web-based software solution, e-tips®, enables increased visibility and control, access to real-time Management Information and greater candidate availability, allowing us to guarantee cover.

This point is evidenced by the many schools, academies, colleges and universities using electronic end-to-end systems like e-tips® with great success, maintaining full visibility and control of their supply spend and consequently paying substantially less in agency margins. By working with a neutral vendor and adopting a long-term, strategic view on how best to tap into temporary labour, the education sector can ensure a more cost-effective service and, crucially, fulfill safeguarding obligations.