An open letter to Welsh Assembly members - support your supply teachers!
On Thursday July 20th a delegation from Fair Deal for Supply Teachers met with members of the Welsh Assembly. As you may be aware the agency rates for daily supply teaching in Wales are £90 - £95 a day, the worst in the UK. We heard stories of supply teachers leaving to stack shelves in supermarkets or taking on a second job delivering pizzas. As a result of this schools are struggling to recruit supply teachers.
In December 2015 the Welsh Government Education Committee produced a report on supply teaching, Recommendation 1: stated:
'The Welsh Government should start work to design a new model for the employment of supply teachers. In making this recommendation the Committee acknowledges that the current contract runs until August 2018, but calls for the Welsh Government to start work now to ensure that the new system is in place in readiness.'
We respectfully ask the Welsh Government to explain, how has this recommendation been implemented?
Subsequently a Taskforce was appointed, but they were 'unable' to recommend an alternative to the agencies. No surprise there when three of them were from management backgrounds, with one token TUC rep, also they failed to visit Northern Ireland to see an alternative that has worked since 2006 - no agencies, schools not ripped off, teachers paid to scale with access to the Teachers' Pension Scheme. Now we have a Working Party that seems to be limited entirely to the issue of training for supply teachers.
We are requesting that the Welsh Assembly members support,
1) A visit to Northern Ireland to see at first hand that there is a viable alternative.
2) To press the Welsh Government to organise a central register of Welsh supply teachers that enables schools to view the availability of their regular supply teachers and can search for geographical location and required skill set.
3) To ensure that an alternative model should be in place by September 2018 when the National Procurement Service contract with New Directions finishes and that teachers should be paid to scale with access to the Teachers' Pension Scheme - teachers in private or independent schools are allowed into TPS but teachers working in state schools for private supply agencies are not.
We are working towards initiating a debate in the Welsh Assembly in the week beginning. Once the date is established we will be asking supply teachers to support a lobby outside the Assembly.
Will it cost too much? At the moment 30 pence in every pound that schools pay for supply goes to the agencies, also hundreds of thousands of pounds is extorted from schools in so called 'Finder's Fees,' whereby if a school recruits a supply teacher onto a permanent contract they still end up paying the agency for months afterwards. At the moment supply teachers are underpaid and demoralised, knowing that the agencies are taking a huge cut from their wages. What about a win, win, win? Scrap the agencies, use the Northern Ireland model, a win for children, a win for schools and a win for teachers.
We have been told that schools have a choice? In fact they have no choice, most schools have to use agencies and they are all as bad as each other. A central register would enable schools to choose the best teachers from their locality, not just from a small list of teachers from one agency. If it works in Northern Ireland why not Wales?
Wait until devolution of pay? This is another attempt at procrastination, delay and postponing the day when Welsh supply teachers can be lifted from the trough of despond. What has devolution of pay got to do with establishing a central register of supply teachers?
All we need is the political will and courage to make this change. Is all the rhetoric about zero-hours contracts merely that, just rhetoric? Please have the courage of your convictions and adopt the Northern Ireland model. We need action now, we don't want any excuses in September 2018 that, 'it's too late to do anything'. Welsh supply teachers are waiting for Assembly Members to make the right decision. A well funded, adequately resourced national supply teacher service for Wales will be a vast improvement on the private supply agencies who are leeching money from schools and demoralising supply teachers.
Fair Deal for Supply Teachers