School spending on supply teacher agencies increases by a fifth in three years

The education select committee suggests that the Government does not have a long-term strategy to rectify the staff shortage problem

In the past four years, the amount that schools spend on staffing agency fees has increased by almost a fifth (18.5 per cent), from £469 million in 2012/13 to £556 million in 2015/16.

These figures do not include funds spent on academies, which will make this spend substantially higher.

The demand for supply teachers is so high that agencies charge a commission fee of up to 30 per cent on average, almost double the industry going rate.

Chair of the select committee, Neil Carmichael MP, told The Telegraph that the Government must do more to decrease the burdens placed on school budgets by supply teacher agencies.

“Obviously a burden of that scale is very difficult and very challenging to the overall education budget, which is constrained,” he said.

“The answer to that is to deal with recruitment and deal with retention – there is no point in tackling things around the edges, we have to be fundamental and strategic.”

Angela Rayner, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said that agencies have got schools “over a barrel”.

“Teachers are leaving the profession in droves and school leaders are being forced to try and fill the gap with agency supply teachers,” she said.

“The spiralling cost of agency supply teachers shows what happens when the government fails to invest in education – it ends up costing the public purse a lot more.”

Director at the Supply Register, Baljinder Kuller, said it is a “lack of alternatives” for schools that allow these agencies to charge such high rates.

“They are shouting very loudly about the fact there is a national teacher shortage,” he said.

“Education recruitment is the fastest growing recruitment sector, with more and more opening year on year because it is such a lucrative market place.”

A computerised recruitment system, The Supply Register, which cuts out the middle man and enables schools to hire teachers directly, uses similar technology to that used by around 20 NHS Trusts to access locum doctors and nurses.

Another company, MyTutor, teaches students virtually by providing online tutorials for £18-an-hour  and is used by hundreds of schools around the country instead of hiring teaching assistants through agencies.

“Agencies charge for introductory fees, hourly fees, day rates, commission – the agencies are holding schools to ransom, outside London in particular where there are less teachers available,” James Grant, director of MyTutor said.

Andrew Morris, head of pay and pensions at the National Union of Teachers, said that the extortionate fees charged by agencies to schools are “completely unacceptable”, adding: “This is money for children’s education, not for the profits of private companies.”

The Education Select Committee report revealed that the Department for Education did not hit it’s recruitment targets for teachers for the past five years, and added that teacher retention is of major concern.

The report calls for a cap on hours to encourage teachers to stay in the profession. “The Committee finds the Government lacks a long-term plan to address teacher shortages and consistently fails to meet teacher recruitment targets,” MPs found.

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