How to save a lot of money on long-term agency staff – and pay teachers more

The Challenge

Many schools use agency staff on a long-term basis. In fact, some agency staff can work in schools for years and still be ‘on the agency’s books’.

This incurs a massive accumulation of cost that’s crippling school budgets and hurting teachers – but it’s been the price of having off-payroll staff for years. At an average £50 agency commission per day it adds up to almost £10k per agency teacher, per year purely in commissions. That’s the reality.

The problem has been highlighted over the last 12 months by the CCS with its Supply Teacher Framework launched in September; by Angela Rayner at the 2018 Labour party conference; by Damian Hinds in his comments on supply agencies; and by the Headteacher’s Round Table with its advice on negotiating down transfer fees – resulting in much passionate discussion with perspectives from both sides of the coin.

At its core, the challenge for schools and teachers is this: if a school wants to supplant its contract with an agency for a particular teacher, there’s usually a hefty transfer fee to be paid (often up to 25% of the teacher’s salary) or a lengthy notice period to be given (often many months). Only after one of these has been settled can the school employ the teacher directly (or via another agency – but usually that would just mean more agency fees anyway). The high costs of either option squeeze school budgets and the imposed limitations on movement constrict career progression for teachers.

Schools are not really in a position to shell out big transfer fees. And in light of the wider recruitment crisis they can be reluctant to let staff go – so they keep agency staff on, paying big commissions of £50+ every day to the agency that originally supplied them. Over time this can add up to eye-watering spends on agencies, and an unhealthy, long-term dependency on supply.

What to do about it?

By speaking to school leaders we identified a need for schools to maintain the flexibility of having off-payroll staff, whilst breaking with excessive agency fees. So we augmented Teacher Booker’s existing supply staff provision service with an end-to-end online staff management platform. Talent Pools is a simple online tool that helps you engage, screen, deploy, pay and retain your school’s network of both on- and off-payroll staff.

Off-payroll staff can be seamlessly added to the Talent Pools platform in minutes. Because there are no daily commissions, transfer fees or notice period clauses, Talent Pools gives schools the flexibility of having off-payroll staff without the ongoing cost.

In short, this model has three big benefits for schools:

  • Schools save money every day on every teacher/TA as there is no more agency commission
  • These savings ultimately mean teachers can earn more, helping schools retain their known, trusted staff
  • Teachers remain as off-payroll staff – Teacher Booker handles all payments through our own payroll, which is free to use for both teacher and school.

The small annual Talent Pools subscription is paid off by the savings made in a matter of days.

How to do it

There are two ways a school can switch an agency teacher over to Teacher Booker’s Talent Pools:

  • Give notice to the agency
    • You’ll carry on as things are for the duration of the notice period, paying commission each day. When the period ends, the teacher can be transferred without any transfer fee.
  • Pay the transfer fee and switch to Talent Pools now
    • You may be able to negotiate the transfer fee down. The Headteacher’s Round Table published some excellent advice on how to do this last April – read it here.


We can provide assistance and support with either of these methods.

The 100 currently accredited supply agencies on the CCS Supply Teachers Framework have now agreed to explicitly declare their transfer fees up front. If your school uses one of these 100 agencies for long term staff, we may be able to help you transition to Teacher Booker and save thousands of pounds per year within a matter of weeks.

All agencies on the Framework must have informed schools about their right to engage a teacher through the Framework. Plus, only a 4 week notice period is required before taking a teacher off the agency’s books if they have already been in school for more than 12 weeks. This means that many teachers could be shifted off the agency in just 4 weeks, with the maximum notice period being just 12 weeks. Click here for a worked example of how transfers work.

And don’t forget – even if their long term supply position comes to an end, the teachers added to the Talent Pool remain on hand for ad hoc cover or future positions at the school, without any commissions.

Talent Pools can be implemented in any school in minutes. If your school currently uses agency staff on a long term basis, the time to switch is now. We’re helping schools across the country save up to £50 per agency teacher, per day. That’s almost £10k per agency teacher, per year.

If you’re a school leader and would like to speak with one of our team about how Talent Pools could help you make these savings a reality in your school, please click here, fill in a quick enquiry form and we’ll be in touch. And if you’re currently working on agency in a school – let your school leaders know about Talent Pools, and you’ll be on the road to better, fairer working conditions.

2019-01-16T17:31:16+00:00 Agencies, Recruitment, School Funding, Schools|