Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Schools Unite to Take on Rip-Off Teacher Agencies

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Schools Unite to Take on Rip-Off Teacher Agencies

Article excerpt


SCHOOLS are planning to break the stranglehold of teacher supply agencies accused of "ripping off" the taxpayer.

Chief education officers from London's 33 boroughs are drawing up plans for their own agency, which would undercut existing private companies.

They are also considering joining together to agree lower standard fees with "preferred" agencies, aiming to squeeze "rogue" firms out of the market.

The plans have emerged after the schools watchdog Ofsted expressed grave concerns over both the cost of supply teachers and their quality.

The agencies, which make an estimated pound sterling600 million from schools, charge thousands in commission which could be spent on books and equipment, exploiting the continuing teacher shortage by boosting fees well above the rate of inflation.

Agencies now charge up to pound sterling180 a day for supply teachers who can make the difference between a school staying open or sending pupils home - with as much as a third of the fee going to the agency itself. Teachers earn little more than the daily rate of their fulltime colleagues.

London's chief education officers have been working for a year with the Department for Education and the Teacher Training Agency (TTA), looking at ways to exercise some control over the market for supply teachers.

The group has now costed two options - either setting up a new supply agency run as a cooperative by the boroughs themselves, or tough "preferred supplier" deals with one or more of the existing private agencies.

A decision on which to pursue is expected in the New Year, after consultation with Government ministers who have supported the review.

But Wandsworth chief education officer Paul Robinson said boroughs were aware of the "risks and costs" of breaking into a mature commercial market and would hope for start-up help from the Government. …

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