UK: Supply teachers are victims of dubious working practices

published 15 March 2016 updated 17 March 2016

Supply teachers in the UK have reported serious concerns about increasingly doubtful working practices by their contracting agencies, with an impact both their working conditions and quality of life.

Attendants to a gathering of supply teachers, organized in Birmingham on the 12th of March by the NASUWT, member of Education International (EI), raised their voice to remind the government of its duty to ensure that supply agencies operate in accordance with the law.

Supply teachers raised concerns that whilst schools are paying agencies hundreds of pounds a time to cover individual classes, teachers receive only a small fraction of the fees being paid to supply agencies.

Urgent government action needed

According to a real-time electronic poll of members attending the conference, 94 percent of supply teachers said that they did not believe the government valued or understood their needs, while almost the same number agreed that stronger regulation of supply agencies was urgent and necessary.

Three out of four (74 percent) supply teachers indicated that they were expected to sign doubtful contracts with employment agencies, or to sign contracts with tax-dodging umbrella companies and offshore organisations. On top of that, 56 percent of supply teachers said that in the last 12 months their work had impacted negatively on their health.

Patrick Roach, Deputy General Secretary of the NASUWT and member of EI’s Executive Board, who addressed the conference, underlined that many teachers became “supply teachers because of a lack of opportunities in schools for flexible working; yet, many supply teachers face exploitation and unfair treatment by some supply agencies, umbrella companies and by schools.”

He denounced that many supply teachers were being asked to sign dubious contracts or to waive their statutory rights to equal treatment under the Agency Workers Regulations. “At a time of a crisis of teacher recruitment and retention, the government must now take seriously the issues raised by supply teachers, who are the backbone of the schools system”, he demanded, concluding that it was “simply scandalous that many supply teachers are regarded as second-class professionals and are being denied equal treatment at work.”