23 Jan 2016

Creating connections between schools and supply teachers

Creating connections between schools and supply teachers

This year, the focus for Bett is game changers and innovation. While this is certainly key for teaching and learning, the same pioneering practices shouldn’t be forgotten when it comes to overall school processes and tackling challenges like the current teacher recruitment and retention crises.

It was reported that schools in England spent more than £800m on supply teachers last year as a result of the crisis - a hugely significant amount of money by any standards.

And while these costs go towards sourcing qualified teachers, the reality is that they aren’t always the right teachers for the job. This is especially evident when it comes to recruitment agencies; while using an agency takes the pressure off schools, it isn’t always necessarily the most effective route.

A recent programme, ‘Supply and Demand’ by BBC Radio Four, looked at the 400,000 supply teachers currently working in the UK and the concerns surrounding the way they currently source work. Supply teachers argued that recruitment agency fees are too high and at present, the system is failing teachers and schools, which subsequently has an impact on the quality of children’s learning.

In a 2016 supply teacher survey by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), 77 per cent of supply teachers stated that agencies were their primary route for sourcing work, with only 17 per cent liaising directly with schools, down from 39 per cent in 2010.

While allowing agencies to manage the process on behalf of busy schools may seem like a sensible approach, the downside is agencies are entitled to determine their own pay levels, meaning that some supply teachers can up end forgoing a large sum of their wages.

The good news is that there are other ways for schools to find suitable candidates for positions, and for supply teachers to apply for and accept job requests, all for a fraction of the agency fees and with the added benefits of continuing professional development (CPD) and the opportunity to join the Teacher Pension Scheme. A lot of schools and teachers are yet to recognise these ground-breaking alternative solutions.

There are ways for schools and supply teachers to cut out the middle man and connect directly, while ensuring the process is both time-saving and cost-effective. Using a “supply register operator” – a specialist digital platform that cuts out agencies and provides schools and supply teachers with direct employment opportunities – can create multiple opportunities for both the school and the supply teacher.

For example, teachers are able to submit their profiles, detailing their experience, subject areas and areas of expertise. They are then able to receive alerts and accept job offers directly from local schools. If they feel there are areas they could improve on before or during the placement, then CPD opportunities may be available for them to utilise and develop their skillset.

The benefits for schools are far-reaching too. Schools are able to search for teachers in the local area based on availability, subjects taught, experience and location. They can then send direct requests via a system or text message, with any bookings recorded automatically. With no daily commission or finders’ fees, it means schools can work with supply teachers on a longer-term period without the headache of extra charges.

And these digital solutions aren’t going to eat into teachers’ already busy workloads either. It simplifies the process, and allows schools and supply teachers to work closer together from start to finish. This diminishes the challenge that some supply teachers face when they turn up to a placement via an agency without being given any information or student data prior to starting.

Sticking with what you know is not always the most effective route; with the innovative and game-changing technology available to schools today, it’s important to look at what else is out there that will enable schools and supply teachers to get the most for their money.

TeacherIn will be exhibiting on stand C300, part of the Microsoft Partner Village. For more information, visit: www.teacherin.co.uk

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