Leading North East education recruitment company, The Education Network, says a recent National Union of Teachers (NUT) report that teacher shortages are costing schools hundreds of millions of pounds in temporary supply staff is misleading.
The Education Network specialises in recruiting teachers, teaching assistants, nursery nurse staff and SEN (special educational needs) specialists for schools and colleges across the UK. Whilst many are looking for permanent, full-time posts, they are seeing an increasing number of newly qualified and qualified teachers choosing supply teaching.
Kevin Gill, managing director at The Education Network, explains: “The NUT say schools in England spent £733m last year on supply teacher agencies which is wasting money intended for children’s education, but it is overlooking a very important point when it comes to perceived teacher shortages.
“During the last 12 months we’ve seen a one hundred percent increase in the number of teachers seeking short-term contracts and supply work. They are highly qualified, experienced individuals, many have held full-time senior posts in schools but they are turning to supply teaching as a lifestyle choice.
“If supply teachers were considered by teaching unions and Government in the same way as teachers on permanent contracts there wouldn’t be such a perceived shortage.”
Susan Sanderson, from Cramlington, works for The Education Network she has been teaching for 13 years and spent the first 11 years in full-time permanent positions. For the past two years she’s been working as a supply teacher and teaches all curriculum subjects to children in all year groups within primary schools.
She said: “Since becoming a supply teacher two years ago, I am happier than I have ever been. For the first time, since I entered the teaching profession I have an acceptable work-life balance. I also have renewed energy, enthusiasm and motivation in the classroom which means I can ‘give my all’ when teaching.
“When I was working as a permanent teacher, although I had every intention and desire to have such motivation within the classroom, the reality was that, due to my unmanageable workload; 60-70 hours per week and the endless pressures and demands placed upon me, I was drained, and effectively ‘running on empty’.
“I know of several people who successfully qualified as teachers, but then made informed decisions to apply for jobs as teaching assistants, rather than as teachers. I also know of qualified teachers who moved abroad to teach after qualifying.
“You can recruit until the cows come home, but you need to look at what is causing teachers to leave the profession in their droves and I can tell you this, it isn’t a lack of talented, passionate and gifted individuals – every teacher I know, started out in their career with these qualities.
“Supply teaching agencies are providing an essential service, by putting qualified and experienced teachers into schools on a daily basis, to plug the gaps which, essentially, the teaching industry causes. It is thanks to supply agencies, providing quality supply teachers that children’s education can and does continue.”
John Fraser from Heaton in Newcastle is another supply teacher through The Education Network. He has over 13 years’ experience and travels between Newcastle, Gateshead, South Shields, North Tyneside and Northumberland teaching in primary and middle schools.
He explains: “Supply teaching offers me a work-life balance that was not possible as a full-time permanent teacher. While I earn less, I also work fewer hours and do far less assessment, planning and report writing.
“Essentially I can get on with the job of teaching and specialise in on-the-day or very short-term assignments. I know that supply teaching certainly would not suit everyone, but it suits me. I’m able to go into the classroom with a genuine smile, and leave feeling that I have helped children learn, and that both they and I have enjoyed the day.
“My supply teaching work is though The Education Network and in return for only doing supply through them, they guarantee me a certain amount of work, so this is not one of those infamous zero-hours contracts. It’s an arrangement that works well. I feel appreciated by the agency, and I feel that they and the schools I work with really value what I offer.
“Supply is not for everyone, but it is definitely a hugely valuable part of the educational mix. It enables teachers to attend training courses and teachers such as myself, to teach something I feel I’m good at and will always want to do – without undue detriment to my personal life.”
The Education Network operates 14 offices nationally with four offices in the North East of England. It provides a round the clock service 365 days a year to meet the demands of its clients by sourcing and recruiting the highest calibre of candidate.
Kevin Gill, managing director adds: “We fully understand the challenges and difficulties facing schools today and are continuously researching and developing new tools and methods that will help reduce our clients’ resourcing spend whilst keeping quality high.
“Indeed, our organisation is staffed with experienced educational professionals, ex teachers and former head teachers who are passionate in the pursuit of supporting schools and colleges across the country to deliver outstanding education opportunities to young people.
“The Education Network has an enviable reputation for outstanding client service within the sector. We are unique in the industry by placing education ahead of profit with a genuine commitment to help raise the standards of education by working closely with specialist education training providers to add value and additional career support to clients through free Continuing Professional Development (CPD) opportunities.”