NEU supply member survey for 2022/23

The NEU’s annual supply member survey examines a range of issues relating to supply staff and their pay and employment.

The evidence provided this year by more than 2,700 respondents (more than three times the response of the previous year and a record for NEU/NUT supply surveys) enables us to form a reliable picture of the issues facing members in this sector.

This year’s survey, conducted from November 2022 to February 2023, received responses from supply teachers (89% of respondents) and from supply support staff (11%, of whom 8% worked in classroom-based roles and 3% in other support staff roles). A number reported working in more than one role at different times depending on what work was available.

This report looks at:

  • how and why school staff take up a supply role, how they get their supply work and whether they wish to return to regular employment in schools;
  • views on experiences with agencies, including on pay, pensions, and issues around the Agency Worker Regulations and umbrella and limited company arrangements;
  • views on experiences with schools when working in a supply role; and
  • the composition of the supply workforce compared to the overall school workforce in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, experience, etc.

Working as a supply educator – why and how

Reasons for deciding to work in a supply capacity

Previous NEU surveys suggested that most supply staff entered supply work in pursuit of an employment pattern fitting with their personal circumstances, with lower proportions moving from regular work for health or other reasons, undertaking some school work in their retirement, or having not yet been able to obtain a permanent post.

However, as in the past few years, the biggest single reason for moving to supply work among the current supply workforce now appears to be the workload in permanent posts. This was by some margin the single most widespread reason cited by this year’s respondents, with 39% identifying this as the main factor in their decision – ten per cent higher than in the 2021 survey. Other significant reasons for switching to supply work continued to be “it fits in with my family/home life circumstances” (34%) and “I cannot find a permanent post” (20%).

Many respondents cited their disillusionment with the long hours, excessive paperwork and testing/target driven culture in permanent work. Others cited work-related ill-health and stress or said they had left permanent posts due to management bullying or redundancy.

Some respondents did view the role in a positive light, relishing the different workplaces, settings and challenges involved, or seeing supply work as a stepping-stone to a permanent position. Others, however, said that losing out to younger and cheaper colleagues when seeking permanent posts left them with little option but to take up work in a supply role.

In response to a new question in this year’s survey, nine respondents indicated that they had taken up supply work as they were fleeing domestic abuse. Whilst this may seem a relatively small number compared to the total number of responses received, it is still nine individuals too many whose lives have been destroyed in more ways than it is possible to imagine.

Actively seeking work

When asked if they were actively seeking work at present, more than two-fifths (45%) of respondents said they were doing so, whilst 55% were not. In 2021 the corresponding figures were rather different, with 68% actively seeking work compared to 32% who were not. This could be because the figure for those who said that supply work fitted in with their family/home life circumstances was higher this year, at 34%, compared with last year (18%) and that consequently the survey results this year perhaps reflect the numbers of supply members taking advantage of the flexibility of supply work and the way it enables workers to fit work around other commitments/responsibilities.

Getting supply work

The proportion of supply staff who principally or mainly obtain their work through agencies has finally fallen, for the first time since NEU/NUT supply surveys began in 2007. In 2022/23, 78% of respondents now mainly obtain work via agencies, a drop from last year’s peak of 84%. The figure had been climbing steadily from 50% in 2010 and 67% in 2014 right up to 83% in 2021. Nevertheless, this still means that more than three-quarters of NEU supply members surveyed mainly obtain their work through agencies.

The proportion of supply staff mainly securing supply work through a local authority “supply pool” was 2%, unchanged from 2021 but down significantly from 8% in 2014 and 11% in 2010. However, a further 3 per cent sourced their work principally through a supply pool run by a supply agency, making a total of 5% working through supply pools overall. Only 12% now secure most or all of their supply work directly with schools, down from 13% in 2021, 25% in 2014 and 39% in 2010.

Desire for permanent employment

A much higher proportion of respondents (44%) said they would take up a permanent post now if offered one, than said they had originally taken up supply work due to being unable to find a permanent post (20%). For many supply staff, therefore, a conscious choice to enter the supply sector can prove difficult to reverse later on in favour of regular employment.

Experiences with agency employment

Agencies – which are the biggest?

Respondents to this year's survey again referred to working via around 200 different supply agencies. The following were the eleven largest agencies in terms of staff employed or placed. (Respondents were able to name more than one agency if they worked via more than one.)

  • Teaching Personnel 8%
  • Vision for Education 5%
  • New Directions 4%
  • Hays Education 4%
  • Protocol Education 3%
  • Tradewind 3%
  • Randstad Education 2%
  • Monarch 1%
  • Supply Desk 1%
  • Reed 1%
  • Simply Education 1%
  • Capita 1%

The twelve agencies listed here are almost identical to those listed in previous surveys. Teaching Personnel occupied the top spot in 2014 and has remained there every year since.

Rates of pay

The figures in the following section apply to supply teachers only, as the number of responses for support staff roles were insufficient to be reliable statistically.

Respondents were asked to specify their current standard daily rate of pay from their agency (banded as £100 or less, £100-124, £125-149 and £150 or more).

For short term or daily supply engagements, 19% of respondents said they were paid £150 or more per day. This is almost three times the figure as in 2020 and 2021, so this level of pay has definitely become less unusual than it once was. Forty-two per cent said they were paid £125-

£149, slightly up on 2021’s 36%. Reversing the trend of previous years, fewer respondents (30%) were paid at the lower level of £100-£124 (2021:41%) while those paid less than £100 decreased from 10% (2021) to 3% this year. Finally, 5% this year said they could not choose one single option due to their pay rate varying between placements.

A daily rate of £100 means that even if a supply teacher works every day of the school year, they will earn around £8,500 less than a newly qualified teacher in a full-time post. Even a daily rate of

£150 will pay a highly experienced supply teacher approaching £10,000 less than a teacher with 5 years’ experience paid at the Main Pay Range maximum.

Regional pay variations continue to be substantial. Agency teachers in London were the best paid, with nearly two-fifths (39%) paid a daily rate of £150 or more (compared to 19% nationally). A little further behind in this respect were teachers in the West Midlands (27%), Yorkshire/Humber (26%) Wales (25%) and the East Midlands (23%). Meanwhile the survey found some areas still struggling with very low pay rates – 13% of respondents in the Northern region and 11% of those

in the North West reported pay rates of less than £100 per day; whilst more than three-quarters (76%) of those in the South West were paid £125 or less.

The majority (61%) said that their pay rate as a supply teacher was lower or significantly lower than their pay rate in their most recent employment by a school/academy or local authority. Only 4% stated that it was higher. Ten per cent said it was about the same, whilst a quarter said that they did not know or the question was not applicable to them because they had never worked for a school/academy or local authority.

As last year, we asked about pay rates for longer term assignments. More than a quarter of respondents (27%) said they do not accept such assignments. Among the remainder who do, 66% said they receive a higher initial pay rate in such cases while 34% said they do not.

Whereas 19% of all respondents reported pay rates of £150 or more per day for short term supply work, 52% of the group receiving higher pay for long term supply were paid at this level, with 8% citing rates of £200 or more and 18% citing rates of £175-£199. Twenty-eight per cent said they would be paid £125-149, but 10% said they would be paid less than £125 per day even for a longer assignment.

Agencies and pensions

While supply agencies are unable to offer membership of the Teachers’ Pension Scheme to teaching staff, they must offer statutory “workplace pensions”. This year, 75% of agency school staff (a modest increase from 69% in 2020) confirmed that they can now build up pension provision through their agency work - but with employer contributions continuing to remain generally at the statutory minimum. If ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, this figure rises to 90%, but this still leaves 10% who said that they have not been offered a workplace pension, despite the law requiring all agencies to do so.

Key Information Document (KID)

All agencies must provide workers with a Key Information Document before they commence an assignment. This sets out details of pay, holiday entitlements and other benefits. Whilst 37 per cent of respondents acknowledged that they did receive a KID from their agency prior to commencing an assignment, nearly a fifth (19%) did not. Forty-four per cent, meanwhile, weren’t sure whether they had received one or not.

Holiday pay

When asked about their holiday pay, 39% responded that their holiday pay was calculated at

12.07 per cent of their working hours – the accepted formula. Two per cent listed a wide variety of alternative methods of calculating holiday pay adopted by their agency or agencies, including a range of percentages from 10 per cent to 25 per cent; whilst some indicated that their agency had failed to tell them how their holiday pay was calculated despite repeated requests; others had reported not receiving any holiday pay at all. Fifty-nine per cent remained unsure of how their holiday pay was calculated.

Forty-four per cent of those surveyed said their holiday pay was paid in addition to their pay, included in their pay slip, and that they were not paid during the holidays. Nineteen per cent said their holiday pay was deducted from their pay, included in their pay slip and they were paid during the holidays. Seven per cent said their holiday pay was paid to them via another arrangement. Thirty per cent were not clear how their holiday pay was paid to them.

All this suggests that agencies need to do better at explaining their systems and processes to their workers. Agency workers who don’t understand how holiday pay is calculated will not know how to challenge mistakes or how to go about correcting them.

Agency Worker Regulations (AWR)

At the time the survey took place, 39% of respondents were working in an agency engagement which had lasted more than 12 weeks at the same school or college. Taking ‘don’t knows’ out of the equation, only 29% of these respondents said that they had automatically been given a pay increase to “parity pay” in line with the Agency Worker Regulations 2010, leaving a massive 71% who had been denied parity pay.

Members were also asked about any agency engagements since 2011 which had lasted more than 12 weeks at the same school or college. Excluding ‘don’t knows’, only 18% had been automatically awarded parity pay on every occasion and 16% on some occasions, whilst 66% stated that they had never been given such a pay increase in line with the AWR.

These are extremely troubling findings and demonstrate the extent of the battle that many supply staff have on their hands in securing what is rightfully and legally theirs under the AWR.

Umbrella companies and Limited companies

Twenty-two per cent said that they were paid through an umbrella company or offshore payroll company, rather than being employed by the agency. This was lower than the corresponding figure in 2021 (27%) and follows a steady decline in such arrangements from a high of 47% in 2015.

This year, 12% said that that their agency insisted on staff working through umbrella companies or limited company arrangements, compared with 18% in 2021, 23% in 2018 and 62% in 2017. In 2022/23 respondents reported that 59% of agencies allowed respondents to be paid via PAYE as an alternative to umbrella arrangements, a similar figure to the 2021 survey’s 60%.

All of the above may be due, at least in part, to members taking note of NEU advice that umbrella company arrangements are not a requirement when working via agencies.

This year's survey also asked again about "limited company" arrangements. Some 10% of respondents said they work through limited company arrangements, the same proportion as in 2020. The NEU continues to have significant reservations about the legal and tax position of supply educators in relation to “self-employment” arrangements.

Umbrella companies and tax compliance

Some significant concerns continue to register regarding the issue of tax compliance. 54% of respondents had been promised by their umbrella company that they could keep 80, 90 or 95 per cent of their wages and still be tax compliant. This is unlikely to be true as, in most cases, the basic rate of income tax is 20% and NI contributions are also due on earnings. In 2021 the corresponding figure was 72% so a fall here is welcome. Meanwhile, 25% of respondents – broadly in line with 2021 - reported that their umbrella company had arranged payment so that only a fraction of their salary was paid through payroll and subject to PAYE. A further 30% of respondents (2021:19%) indicated that their umbrella company had arranged things so that the payment from their UC was routed through various companies before it came to them. Finally, 3% of respondents (similar to 2021) had been paid via a loan, credit or investment payment, with the umbrella company claiming that this was not subject to income tax/National Insurance contributions (this is tax avoidance).

These findings demonstrate the need for those working under umbrella company arrangements to be aware of tax compliance requirements as, ultimately, it will be the individual taxpayer who may be subject to HMRC enforcement action.

Finally, just under a quarter (22%) expressed the view that umbrella company and limited company providers were not entirely clear about their fees and services.

Cover supervisor work

A fifth (20%) of those surveyed said that they had accepted work which had been offered as “cover supervision” but had in practice required actual teaching – only slightly down from 22% in 2021. This shows a continuing worrying tendency by some schools to seek to secure supply teachers on even lower rates than those paid for supply teaching. This problem seems to be most common in the secondary sector: 35% of secondary respondents reported this happening to them, compared to only 14% of primary respondents.

Satisfaction with agencies – the advantages and disadvantages

The survey asked those working for agencies about the advantages and disadvantages of seeking supply work in this way.

As in previous years, the main perceived advantages were access to more regular work and a greater choice of such work than could be obtained through other routes. This year agencies were noted by 40% of respondents for their ‘efficient support’ in obtaining work. The disadvantages included low pay, pay not reflecting experience, lack of training opportunities, assignments cancelled at the last minute, lack of access to TPS pensions, “finders’ fees” placing an obstacle to being offered a job at a school after a successful placement, and opaque contractual/pay arrangements.

As one respondent said:

“There are no advantages to working through an agency as I'm paid £123 a day when I should be on M6 paid to scale plus TPS contributions. I used to get paid to scale on supply in the 1990s through my London Borough supply pool. It was far easier to establish relationships with
schools quickly and they would contact me directly for work. The agencies get in the way and give schools and supplies less control over who they employ for supply, but fundamentally supply teachers are paid a pittance through agencies and struggle to cope financially.”

Experience with schools

We again asked supply educators about their experience with schools and the support they receive on and after arrival.

The majority of supply staff told us that schools provided adequate help and support, with 71% saying this was “usually” or “always” the case. Twenty-nine per cent, however, thought that schools “rarely” or “never” provided adequate help and support to them.

Those who answered “rarely” or “never” to the above question were then asked what were the principal issues they encountered regarding lack of support. The following table sets out their responses.

Support area percentage
Access to individual pupil information 67%
Access to teaching / learning resources 55%
Lack of named contact / support person 45%
Access to class registers 44%
Access to planned work for students 42%
Access to premises / classrooms 35%
Access to PPA time (longer assignments) 33%
Access to school facilities (toilets/staffroom etc.) 15%
Reasonable adjustments in the workplace (where applicable) 14%

Current employment prospects

Availability of supply work

The survey asked teachers how often they could access work when they wanted it, and how this compared to the previous year.

Access to agency work

Availability of supply work via agencies appears to have increased this year. More than half (57%) of respondents said that they could get work almost every day, up from 23% in 2021. With just under a third saying they were able to get work about half the time, the same as in 2021, the number only able to find work occasionally fell again this year. Only 9% said they sometimes could not get work for a week at a time, down from 12%, while only 4% said they were being offered no work for weeks at a time, down from 6% in 2021 and 17% in 2020.

Trends in access to work

When asked to compare their situation to last year, 9% said it was easier to get work while 17% said that it was harder. Meanwhile, two-fifths (40%) said it was about the same. The challenging situation in schools post-Covid has perhaps improved the outlook for the supply workforce, as, although the worst of the pandemic is over, there are still many airborne viruses, including Covid19, which are rife in schools and causing staff absence. Add to this the unprecedented nature of the teacher supply crisis and the need for supply staff has never been greater.

Composition of the supply workforce

Teachers/support staff

Respondents to this survey comprised 89% teachers and 11% support staff. Of this 11%, eight per cent were in classroom-based roles and three per cent fulfilled other support staff roles such as peripatetic staff, librarians and exam invigilators. A number worked across both teaching and support staff categories.


We have seen a change in this year’s survey with regard to the age profile of the supply workforce – at least in terms of the composition of the response to this survey. Whereas in previous years NEU surveys suggested that the supply workforce was considerably older than the school workforce generally, this year’s survey shows that that differential is much reduced. Just over half (55%) of teacher respondents were over 45, which is much closer to the figure for the total teaching workforce than the corresponding figure for 2021 which was 74%. Meanwhile, 24% of respondents were aged 35 or under, broadly in line with the figure for the total teaching workforce. In 2021 only 9% of respondents were aged 35 or under.

This is partly a result of the fact that the older age groups in the total teaching workforce have been increasing in proportion recently, which may be as a result of changing retirement policy.


The response’s composition - 80% female - suggests that the supply workforce remains similar in this respect to the wider school workforce. The survey again suggested little difference in women’s experiences in relation to the matters surveyed, other than that women were more likely to cite family/home life circumstances as their reason for working as a supply educator.


The survey found that 84% of respondents were White / White British compared to 87.5% of the whole workforce. Meanwhile, 4% were Black / Black British, compared with 2% of the whole workforce; and 7% were Asian / Asian British compared to 3.7% in the whole workforce.

These figures are broadly similar to those of 2021.

Sexual orientation

Taken together, 8% of respondents identified as bisexual, lesbian, gay or other.


This survey has found that the current treatment of disabled supply staff, to say the least, extremely concerning. Five per cent of respondents defined themselves as disabled. Compared with respondents overall, these professionals are more likely to work for agencies; less likely to earn the top rates of pay, more likely to be paid rates of less than £100 per day (15% as opposed to 3% overall); and more likely to be offered cover supervisor work which is in fact teaching work on cover supervisor rates. Almost a third of them also expressed concerns about schools and their readiness to implement reasonable adjustments in the workplace.

Education sectors

The majority of respondents (64%) worked in primary schools, with only 23% working in a secondary capacity. Five percent carried out supply work in special schools. A small number (less than one per cent) worked in a supply capacity in post 16 settings such as sixth form colleges and FE. As can be imagined, there was some overlap in this regard with a number of respondents proving adaptable in their ability to work across sectors as required.

Experience in regular employment

While nearly 50% of supply educators had over 10 years’ experience in regular posts, 40% of respondents had less than 5 years, of which 26% had less than 2 years.

Experience in supply work

The survey reaffirmed that for a number of respondents, supply work has become long term employment – around one in ten said they had worked in a supply capacity for more than ten years. However, the overwhelming majority (71%) had less than 5 years’ experience in supply work, and nearly two-fifths (39%) had less than 2 years.

Conclusions and implications for the NEU's work

Respondents were again asked to suggest what priorities the NEU should be following to improve conditions for its supply members. The results are as follows:

NEU work
Priority percentage
Campaign for national register of supply teachers and support staff, paying in line with national pay rates 74%
Campaign for higher pay from supply agencies 67%
Campaign for re-establishment of LA supply pools 46%
Campaign for national standards for supply agencies 37%
Campaign for Alternatives to Agencies (A2A) 32%
Promotion of NEU supply charter to schools 28%

Other popular suggestions were to campaign to give access to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme to agency teachers; to provide training and CPD for supply members on areas such as phonics, and to strengthen ties with the National Supply Teacher Network (NSTN).

Supply staff are an important element of the overall school workforce. Most continue to elect to work in this way and - despite the problems on pay and pensions – supply work continues to draw in teachers and support staff who no longer wish to work, or feel they cannot continue to work, in a regular post. As we have said previously, this shows the need for action on workload and other pressures for the school workforce generally, both to retain those still working in regular employment and to attract supply educators back into regular employment.

Welcome though signs of increased pay are in this year’s survey, these have to be seen in the context of the cost of living crisis and against the backdrop of agency pay having stagnated for many years previously. Agency supply staff continue to be paid less – often much less – than their permanent counterparts and continue to be denied access to the major public sector pension schemes, and agencies continue to be a drain on school expenditure at the same time as being the dominant source of work for supply staff. This survey has confirmed concerns about observance of the Agency Worker Regulations and tax compliance issues relating to umbrella companies. It has also raised concerns relating to the treatment of disabled supply workers.

This 2022-23 survey report, therefore, once again shows that the need for the NEU’s campaign for fair play for supply staff is as great as ever.

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