The latest data for schools in England shows spending on supply teachers accounted for 6% of the total amount spent on teaching staff wages. Chris Keates, the general secretary of the union NASUWT, said the spend on supply staff reflected a “serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”
More and more supply teachers are playing an invaluable role in children’s education, however they are often viewed as second best by pupils, parents and their peers.
“Supply teachers are fully qualified and arguably, in many cases, have more teaching experience because they have worked in a number of schools,” said Lee Carpenter, director of PK Education.
He added: “When permanent teachers are off sick with stress because of increasing workload, it is often supply teachers who are brought in to take up the reins and educate our children.”
In a recent PK Education survey, more than 50% of the supply teachers the agency surveyed revealed that they are spending their time creating lesson plans from scratch when nothing has been left for them to use- they really are the unsung heroes of the profession.
Many teachers are now choosing to leave permanent roles to become supply teachers because it is giving them back their work-life balance, with many retired teachers choosing to do supply also because they love the teaching but not the paperwork and planning.
According to the NUT/YouGov Teacher Survey on Government Education Policy, published on Sunday 4 October, 53% of teachers are thinking of quitting in the next couple of years. The top reasons given were “volume of workload” (61%) and “seeking a better work/life balance” (57%).
Lee explained: “Education Systems are under so much pressure to perform to hit targets that no one has the time to do the small things that make a big difference to the most important people in the system- the pupils. Supply teaching is now being viewed as a lifestyle and legitimate career choice for those individuals that are passionate about teaching but hate the red tape.
Many of PK’s candidates who have left permanent roles to go into supply teaching site that pupil left them unable to do what they entered the profession to do. Professionally, supply teaching allows teachers to fully focus on what really matters – the teaching.
“We have to get rid of the attitude that supply teachers are second best. Without them I think many schools would be in a whole lot of trouble. The skills and experience of teachers can be retained in the system through supply work,” added Lee.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “Supply teachers provide a valuable role for schools, and schools themselves are best placed to make staffing decisions to reflect their individual needs. It is up to head teachers and governors to decide who is required for the job and this includes how best to cover absences.