Supply teachers in Northern Ireland

Supply teachers in Northern Ireland play an important role in the education sector. 

Supply teachers accounting for 20.7% of the total teaching days in the 2022/23 academic year in Northern Ireland. Without supply teachers’ schools would not be able to operate at the same level.

The following information is an overview of areas related to supply teachers.

Contract of Employment

There are three ways a supply teacher can be employed in NI, they are:

  1. Fixed Term Contract for twelve months or more:
    • Paid a monthly salary for the duration via the permanent payroll system.
    • Job security for period of contract.
    • Able to avail Occupational sick pay.
    • Improved Credit Score – car finance, bank loans etc.
    • Guaranteed payment and attendance at Staff Development Days / Baker Days.
  2. Fixed Term contract for less than twelve months:
    • Paid for each working day at the rate of 1/195th of the salary your paygrade.
    • To ensure payment for work at the correct rate of pay (1/195), schools are requested to book the teachers through the NISTR system.
    • Job security for period of contract.
    • Improved Credit Score – car finance, bank loans etc.
    • Currently no occupational sick leave.
      1. NEU wish to challenge the status quo, using the Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002. These Regulations provide that “a fixed-term employee has the right not to be treated by his employer less favourably than the employer treats a comparable permanent employee” unless there is objective justification.
      2. If you find yourself in this situation, please contact [email protected].
  3. Casual or short-term employment:
    • Booked via NISTR.
    • Paid for each working day at the rate of 1/195th of the salary your paygrade.
    • No occupational sick leave

Pay Progression

  1. M1-M6
    • Once you have worked one day (or part-day) of at least 26 weeks in aggregate over the course of a single academic year, you will automatically move up one pay grade for the next academic year.
  2. UPS1 Progression – Threshold
    • After one year’s service on Point 6 of the Main Pay Scale, teachers are eligible for consideration for progression to UPS1 in accordance with the agreed threshold arrangements.

Threshold arrangements for 2023/24 | Department of Education

Moving to NI from elsewhere

For teachers moving to Northern Ireland from elsewhere there have been some issues with their salary scale. 

When employed as a supply teacher it is your first employer who assigns your salary scale for the academic year.  It is vital this is agreed before employment.

If it hasn’t been settled before employment and you have been paid incorrectly, please contact the workplace rep or NI Office.

Areas of Concern

  1. Incorrect Pay
    • 14% of respondents in the last NISTR survey, stated that a school had intentionally paid them less than the point they had reached on the pay scale (e.g. M3 instead of M6).  This could only be implemented by those schools administering their own payrolls.
    • This practice is contrary to legislation.
    • Contact NEU rep or Belfast Office – [email protected].
  2. Fixed Term Contract
    • Whilst NEU are actively seeking a case to challenge the for progression to UPS1 in accordance with the agreed threshold arrangements.

NISTR Survey clearly evidenced for the first time, a practice of schools intentionally paying temporary teachers less than their personal pay point. 14% (some 272 respondents) advised that a school had intentionally paid them less than the point you have reached on the pay scale (e.g. M3 instead of M6). Such a practice is effectively prevented for salaries processed through the main DE temporary payroll and could only be implemented by those schools administering their own payrolls.

Legislation

The arrangements for pay and conditions for temporary and supply teachers are set out in secondary legislation:

  • SR 1987 No 267 – Teachers’ (Terms and Conditions of Employment) Regulations (NI) 1987;
  • SR 1993 No 318 – Teachers’ Salaries Regulations (NI) 1993; and
  • SR 1993 No 403 – Teachers’ Salaries (Amendment) Regulations (NI) 1993.

NISTR

All teachers engaged for short periods of supply cover must be sourced and booked through the NI Substitute Teachers Register (NISTR).

TNC Circular 2016/01 states that employing authorities will monitor the appropriate use of NISTR.

FAQHelp and support on all things NISTR

Currently, all teachers engaged for short periods of supply cover must be sourced and booked through the NI Substitute Teachers Register (NISTR).  It was recently agreed that the register should be renamed as the NI Supply Teachers Register (NISTR) following a preference expressed to cease using the term ‘substitute’. The arrangements around the appropriate use of NISTR are currently set out in TNC Circular 2016/01.

The current DE and TNC guidance states that NISTR should be used for short-term, unplanned cover only, for no more than six months.  Longer temporary engagements such as to cover maternity leave or career breaks must be advertised through an open and fair recruitment and selection process and the teacher placed on a fixed-term contract.

NEU Supply Conference 2023

Simon Salter, Regional Support Officer at the NI office gave a presentation on NISTR.

Introducing the changes, and how the new reporting function will help to reduce the exploitation of daily bookings for long term cover. The system will send reports to the employing authority and DENI in relation to workplaces using the booking system for long term bookings at the six month stage. NEU expects the recommendations from the temp/supply there to be some form of accountability mechanism introduced to act on the data.

Elsewhere, agencies are causing a lot of issues with teachers across the UK. Supply teachers must negotiate their own pay in certain cases with the average wage below their grade. NEU made sure this practice was not introduced in NI.

The Welsh Government are rolling out a new booking platform in North Wales where many supply teachers are directly employed and already have access to TPS. They are hoping to roll it out to other areas by the end of the year but for it to be successful schools need to sign up to it. Depending on school budgets we expect this to be difficult.

The Framework in Wales did increase pay to a minimum daily rate of MPS2, but we are witnessing a huge drop in bookings for supply teachers and an increase for support staff and cover supervisors. We’re hearing reports of support staff routinely covering and 'teaching' lessons which is outside of their job descriptions. This is why its vital we have one system where only those teachers registered through GTCNI can be engaged in supply teaching in NI.

Reading with children

Supply staff

Advice for supply members, whether working via agencies or directly with schools, and for NEU branch and district officers supporting such members.

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