Are supply agencies just wheelers and dealers?
Imagine you are trying to lease a new car. Having previously signed up to an email alert and completed a comprehensive search criteria you receive a call from an excited salesman saying that he has found you the perfect match.
You arrive at the garage and encounter a slight hitch. The salesman informs you that the car isn’t yet in his possession. In fact, he hasn’t ever seen the car but the last owner assures him it is a solid runner with no obvious issues.
The good news is that he can let you try it for a day but it will cost you around £200. You leave, not really fancying the idea, but before you go he informs you that he will be in touch, very soon with details of an even better car.
Deals on wheels
So begins a series of daily calls and messages, some light-hearted, others a little pushy and aggressive to the point where you ask him to stop contacting you, which he does, only to have his colleague take over and offer you increasing numbers of cars that slowly match an ever decreasing amount of original selection criteria.
In the end you decide that you might as well go and buy a car instead of leasing it, a service which the salesman also offers. The hitch is that to find you the right car he will have to invest quite a lot of time and money which will need to be added on to the sale price of the car, somewhere in the region of 15% he says. Either that or you can lease it at a ridiculously high daily rate and then after 12 months the car is yours for free, apart from paying the original price for it that is.
This, ladies, gentleman, fellow teachers, school leaders, HR officers and anyone else remotely interested is how modern day supply agencies work.
To quote a well-known comparison website ‘simples’.
Supply and be damned
So, where has it all gone wrong and how is it affecting the marketplace? Well, for starters, supply agencies used to focus on just that – daily supply – to assist with short term, one-off needs. They were actually quite good, as they usually knew the teachers on their books personally, and had even, in some cases, met with them, talked to them and had seen them teach.
However, then people stopped wanting to become teachers and started leaving the profession due to funding cuts and workload issues. Supply became less fluid and this is when the penny dropped with supply agencies… why not hawk out our supply staff and try and place them permanently in schools?!
We can even attend recruitment fairs and instead of new teachers joining schools directly we can offer them regular work, without the stress, all for a small cut of the daily rate we charge. Genius!
Except it isn’t.
This approach is systematically aiding the destruction of the teaching profession, hugely inflating the cost of recruitment, whilst encouraging good teachers to move around and fail to develop their craft through good quality CPD and support. I have recruited hundreds of teachers over the years and have always interviewed and recruited on attitude, gut feeling and a sense of fit. I have also employed many, many supply teachers, the majority of which, I’m afraid to say, have offered little more than expensive babysitting.
A good cover supervisor is worth their weight in gold and serve as the mainstay of dealing with staff shortages. I don’t have any issue with paying for supply staff but I need assurance they will come in and teach, not just occupy the chair at the front of the classroom.
In short supply
That said, with demand currently outstripping supply, the temptation to approach supply agencies to find a permanent member of staff is too great.
Costs of advertising nationally are so horrific that the risk of having to nurse a so called experienced teacher through their time is often the cheaper and far less painful option. And that is, unfortunately, the crux of the matter. By delving into permanent placement solutions, supply agencies are demeaning and damaging teaching.
My plea to all supply and so called specialist recruitment agencies is ‘leave our kids alone’. Okay, I’ll admit, that was a little tenuous in terms of cultural quotes, but you get my drift.
- Stop over egging the pudding when describing a candidate and then holding schools to ransom with overly complicated T&Cs, outrageously high daily costs and crippling permanent placement fees. You are dealing in human beings not machines.
- Does receiving a CV and pimping it out to some schools really justify charging 15-25% of the annual salary? I’ll answer this for you succinctly. No. At the very least meet the candidates, at best go and see them teach so you can actually vouch for them.
- Oh, also kindly stop telling me that science teachers can teach GCSE Maths and that someone with a history degree will make a fantastic English teacher. In most cases they can’t.
You are undermining the best profession in the world by taking advantage of an economic problem, all to fund your overstaffed and inefficiently run companies.
Right, I’m off on a weeks holiday to France so that I can come back and pick up some MFL supply work. “No worries” my agent says (proper rockstar me!), “there are plenty of schools out there who will take you as they can’t afford to be fussy.”
Apologies to the many really good supply teachers out there. This not a complaint about you I promise, as without you schools wouldn’t currently be able operate. Therein lies the issue I guess.