Byline: JOANNE ATKINSON
THE number of qualified teachers who can only find work through supply agencies is continuing to soar, despite concern that there is an increasing shortfall of professionals at the chalkface.
Supply teaching agencies are reporting that they are busier than ever as a result of recruitment problems for permanent posts in Welsh schools and they predict that things are only going to get worse this term.
A recent survey by the General Teaching Council for Wales found that on average, vacant posts are attracting only 6.5 applicants, and in some cases, head teachers are unable to find a suitable candidate from among the field.
An independent survey, commissioned by the National Union of Teachers, also revealed that more teachers are leaving the profession than ever before, with fewer trainees making it to the classroom, and 18pc of those who do quitting within the first three years because of pupil behaviour, salary levels and increasing workloads.
But specialist supply teaching agencies are becoming increasingly popular with schools turning to these "one-stop-shops" for reliable temporary cover while they try to fill permanent positions.
Former teacher Phil Huntley owns Education Recruitment Network, based in Newport. It has around 300 supply teachers on their database, and due to the shortage of teachers in particular subject areas, increasing numbers of their staff are filling longerterm placements, rather than just emergency cover for sick teachers.
"Supply teacher agencies are an easy and cost-effective way for schools to fill positions, " he said.
"We have built up relationships with schools, who know they will receive a professional service, and good quality teachers.
"There are several reasons for the people on our books to take up supply teaching - they may be just starting out, or coming to the end of their teaching careers."
He said the winter is a particularly busy period for ERN. "It becomes more difficult to meet the needs of schools. We're busier than ever this year - we've started recruiting from further afield, and we're setting up a satellite office in Australia and New Zealand."
But according to Geraint Davies, of the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, while supply agencies are useful they are only creating a potential disaster for the profession.
"Whether anyone likes it or not, teaching is an ageing profession and we cannot afford to lose enthusiastic, young teachers to London and other towns in England because there are no permanent posts here, " he said.
"Schools know that their budgets are incredibly tight and they will often be loathe to employ a full-term teacher because they aren't sure whether the pupil numbers will support the post for more than a year.
"The temptation is just to bring in supply cover or offer shortterm contracts because then they don't have to pay a salary during the holidays and there is no problem if the need for the teacher disappears. …