As a recently retired teacher of 33 years, 15 of which served on Senior Leadership, I am now employed as a Business Development Manager at SupplyWell. In my role, I ensure excellent teachers and educators are placed in schools with the knowledge that they are being paid a fair wage and the schools are given clear, budget friendly invoicing.
For the majority of my teaching career I was a School Leader and spent my last years at a large Secondary School in North Liverpool with over 1600 students. I was responsible for Pastoral Care and “The School Diary” ensuring that there were enough supply teachers deployed to cover staff absence. During 2020/21 this aspect of my tenure became increasingly demanding due to the steep increase in staff absence due to the impact of COVID 19.
Reality of agency use
I had the opportunity to work closely with a number of supply agencies, with an average day having at least 10 cover teachers deployed. This gave me a significant insight into how they were treated by their agency with regard to both wellbeing and pay.
I quickly began to realise how low-paid and demoralised some teachers became. The sad reality was, supply teachers were often not being treated well by these traditional agencies, affecting their morale which quite often lead to demotivation and poorer student outcomes.
Over that time, I spoke with several teachers about their pay and wellbeing support. Most of them had not had any support from their agency, merely a phone call telling them which placement to attend. After discussing pay I realised just how much the agencies were taking in commission, in some instances half of the invoice went directly to the agency leaving the teacher with less than £100 for a day’s work in increasingly trying and testing conditions.
The reason I chose to join SupplyWell was their ethical and supportive nature, with the welfare of both teacher and student at the forefront of all they stand for. Teachers are paid well, with a transparent fee deducted from each invoice. Wellbeing calls, CPD and support is given to all of its candidates and they all certainly feel they belong to a “school within a school”.
Only the other day whilst speaking to a new candidate and I was appalled by their treatment. They were being paid £70 per day for teaching (!) and were told that if they worked for another agency they would probably not get other work as they would “go down their pecking order.”
I understand that schools have a budget to adhere to, but they also have a moral duty of care for all those who work with them, regardless if they are long term staff or supply. In reality, I don’t think schools know the extent to which traditional agencies take their cut.
Educators need to be respected and feel valued, which will directly impact on their performance and the outcomes of students. Schools have the opportunity to put this right and need to be empowered to do the right thing. The welfare and support of students, as well as their educational development will only improve if teachers, including supply teachers, feel valued and respected.
Make a positive change
I encourage all Cover Managers to do their research and support the ignored and neglected supply teachers by working with agencies and services that put the welfare of their staff first.