This is how Local Authorities, Multi Academy Trusts and other school groups in England are running cost-effective and ethical supply pools, today.

Over the last twenty years, the supply teaching sector has become a fragmented wild west where it’s all too common for schools to be fleeced and supply teachers exploited.

It’s time for that to change. The coronavirus crisis has resulted in thousands of supply teachers experiencing severe financial hardship due to the flagrant unfairness of how they are employed and paid, and it’s common knowledge that supply costs for schools have been spiralling for years.

These issues can no longer be ignored.

For several years now variants on a return to the old local supply pool system have been mooted in supply teacher forums, by unions and politicians, and in the press, to save schools money and improve conditions for teachers — but uptake is not yet widespread.

Why has it been slow to change?

A return to the local supply pools model by Local Authorities and Multi Academy Trusts is widely seen as desirable, but there are two principal reasons it hasn’t taken hold yet:

  • The perceived cost and difficulty of implementation. The administrative overhead of setting up and running a local supply teacher service when operated via lists, phones and manual processes is very high. It is simply not cost-effective for Local Government or MAT Central Teams to run a local pool in this way — a more efficient model is required.
  • The perceived bargaining power of incumbent agencies. Due to their control of teacher supply, there is a concern that powerful incumbent providers could respond to the advent of locally administered supply pools (which may threaten their business model) by constricting teacher supply to schools with immediate needs, rendering the initial period of transition to a pool model risky to the immediate stability of school operations.

Time to take bold action

But in the aftermath of the initial coronavirus chaos, the challenges posed by these perceptions are receding. Now is the time to take bold action and make the return to local supply teaching pools. There is an increased support base for the transition to the local pool model from all parties:

  • Supply staff: Determined supply teachers have boldly united to chronicle the actions of bad employers who have treated with contempt and refused to communicate with or support thousands of their supply teacher workers through the coronavirus disruption.
  • Schools: Many school and MAT leaders have boldly vowed not to return to their old suppliers after aggressive and often unsubstantiated demands for financial compensation during the crisis. Whilst by no means all suppliers have acted in this way, the actions of a few have tainted the reputation of the many.
  • Unions: Last month the NASUWT, a leading teachers’ union, boldly called for a ‘new normal’ that is based on bringing to an end these brutal and divisive employment practices’ that are rife in supply teaching. The NEU’s most recent supply teacher survey found that a union-led campaign for a national register of supply teachers was the #1 priority amongst respondents, with 79% of respondents backing the idea.
  • Ethical agencies/incumbent providers: In April 2020 legislation was introduced requiring that employers of agency staff are fully transparent about payment and employment conditions upfront, and provide a Key Information Document explaining these to new staff. This important change is representative of a wider ‘adapt or die’ turning point in the sector. Ethical suppliers who recognise this are already engaging with schools and supply staff on a revised, more transparent basis to maintain relationships and underscore their reputation as compliant, ethical operators.

The solution is easier than you might think

As far as the operational challenge and administrative cost of implementing a supply pool is concerned, the solution is tried, tested, available, and being rolled out in school groups right now.

Teacher Booker is the only technology platform so far to have been identified in the press as the specific solution required to make the administrative overhead of running a supply teacher pool (including both in-house supply provision and ethical third party providers) simple and cost effective for Local Authorities, MATs and regional school groups — or even on a national scale.

To this end, we have partnered with one of England’s largest and most innovative Multi Academy Trusts to implement our unique technology platform Talent Pools. Talent Pools brings supply teacher compliance, deployment and payment into one platform, making running a supply pool easy and cost-effective. Here’s a short video explainer:

Teacher Booker also runs its own, separate supply cover provision service using the same Talent Pools platform — the same way any LA, MAT or school group can for its own schools. The technology is tried and tested, having already delivered vast cost savings for schools and up to 25% uplifts in pay for teachers.

Projected savings from running a Talent Pool in a 50-strong school group are in the region of £1m – £1.5m per year. As running costs are low (it doesn’t take many in-house staff to run the Talent Pool), school groups can make net savings of £1m+ whilst also paying supply staff significantly more — helping establish them as an ethical employer of choice and enabling better teacher retention.

For years voices across the sector — supply teachers, school leaders, union representatives, LA and MAT leaders and politicians have been calling for a return to the supply teacher pool system.

Now a return to that model is operationally and financially viable, and the sudden shift in sentiment brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically accelerated demand for more fairness and transparency in the sector.

Now is the time to take action and fix supply teaching. Get in touch using the details below, or refer your Local Authority or MAT contact who is responsible for temporary staffing.

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