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To: Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds MP
Stop the agency rip-off in education
Save money in Education by getting rid of expensive recruitment agencies.
Can the Secretary of State for Education comment on the loss of millions of pounds of public money that was ring-fenced for education into the hands of recruitment agencies who provide supply teachers?
The Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, has declared that agencies charging extortionate rates for locum doctors and temporary staff in the NHS are a "rip-off".
Will he support his Cabinet colleague and agree that schools are also being ripped off?
Why is this important?
All schools in the UK need qualified teachers to fill in for short and long term staff absence in order to provide the best education and a seamless handover for children in the classroom. In England, the provision of substitute/supply teachers is now administered by private employment agencies.
Some agencies take up to 100% mark up on charges to schools for supply teachers. Supply teachers are paid significantly less than their full time colleagues for doing the same job and yet schools are being made to pay more for their services per day because of the expense of the middle man. This money was ring-fenced for education, but it is ending up in the hands of the corporate shareholders of recruitment companies.
Public money is being lost to private, profit-making companies. It is not being used to pay for teachers, special needs support staff, classroom equipment, books, computers, childrens' services or staff training. This is what the ring-fencing was supposed to achieve. It was supposed to give schools the choice of how to spend their money. Agencies do not ring-fence the money they receive. There is little or no inward reinvestment from the agencies; they take but the do not give back. That money is gone for good; money that tax-payers were assured was specifically for education not the sales agents and investors of the recruitment agency market.
Schools are being asked to cut spending, and yet most schools have no choice but to source supply teachers from agencies who now control approaching 70% of the temporary and supply teacher market in England and Wales. As teacher numbers dwindle, the need for substitute and short term cover increases. Agencies are cashing in on this. But why should they? They are not publicly accountable and there is no statutory regulator to oversee their business activities. They are not recognised by the Department for Education as approved education service providers, so their candidates, although qualified as teachers, are not eligible for the Teachers' Pension Scheme.
By contrast, in other parts of the UK, namely in Northern Ireland and Scotland, there are no agencies. Schools do not pay a middleman to source their substitute teachers. They source their temporary staff directly from a publicly accountable central register. Teachers are paid to scale, tax revenue from their pay goes back into public services. No one profits out of schools.
To add insult to injury, many agencies insist that supply teachers are paid via umbrella payroll companies. This results in a significant loss of tax revenue, causing further cuts to public services. It is a ludicrous situation that could be reversed immediately if a publicly accountable central register of substitute teachers were in place as it is in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Most supply teachers would prefer to be paid directly by schools and local authorities. They resent agencies charging high fees to schools for their services. What agencies do, does not justify their fees. The teachers do the work in school, the agencies simply make one phone call. It's a rip-off.
Can we assume that the Secretary of State for Education agrees with the Secretary of State for Health, that profiteering out of the NHS is a rip-off. Therefore, can we assume that, in the absence of any statement from him, he is of the opinion that profiteering out the Education system is also a rip-off?
There is no benefit to children, parents, schools or communities. In times of austerity, we cannot afford their services.
Stop the rip-off in our schools.
Get rid of the agencies and ensure that your money is spent on your children.