Commenting on the passing of motion 13 at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The Covid crisis has demonstrated even more reasons to change the way that we organise the provision of supply staff in schools.

“Supply agencies have driven down pay and drained hundreds of millions of pounds from school funding. During the last lockdown, most agencies were hugely reluctant to furlough supply staff, despite the massive sums made from them in the past. Many staff were left without any income at all unless they qualified for State support.

“The money taken by agencies should be spent on children’s education – on books and resources, on better and warmer buildings and on more and better paid staff, not handed over to businessmen and shareholders who have done nothing to earn it.

“The NEU is pressing for better systems for supply provision to benefit staff and schools alike. Modern technology can put staff and schools directly in contact, cutting out the agencies and reducing costs. The system already in operation in Northern Ireland should be adopted more widely. The NEU’s Alternatives to Agencies initiative is exploring such solutions at local level with local authorities, multi academy trusts and regional government agencies. The Department for Education must become involved as well.

“Supply staff are essential when regular staff are absent, yet they are often poorly treated by agencies and schools. The NEU will be redoubling its efforts to secure their rights under the Agency Workers regulations, which agencies and schools too often seek to ignore or circumvent including by terminating engagements.

“The NEU will also continue to press for supply teachers to be offered the opportunity to employed as part of the Government’s summer catch-up programme and a longer-term education recovery plan.

“Supply staff in schools have been exploited for years. Supply teachers in particular are paid far less than teachers in permanent posts.  Their employment day to day has always been uncertain. It is morally wrong for the Government to let a system which is fundamentally rotten simply resume after lockdown.”