The £6m a year cost of supply teacher cover

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More than £6 million was spent by Wigan schools on supply teachers in one year, figures have revealed.

Analysis of Department of Education figures by the Wigan Observer has shown that on average £194 was spent per pupil by primary and secondary schools in the borough, although this drops to £185 when special schools are excluded.

In total, the 97 primary schools, excluding special schools, that provided figures to the DofE spent £4,053,951 on supply teachers in the 2014/15 school year, or the equivalent of £173 per pupil.

Supply teachers for both primary and secondary special schools cost them a total £528,502, or a huge £843 per pupil.

Secondary schools spent £2,045,740 on supply teachers in the same year, or £154 per pupil. The amount schools spent varied from just over £3,000 to £133,000 for primary schools and from £58,00 to £278,000 for secondaries.

The total amount is thought to have dropped slightly since the 2013/14 school year in Wigan and across the UK where nationally £821 million was spent on supply teachers.

A Department of Education spokesman said: “Supply teachers provide a valuable role for schools, and schools themselves are best placed to make staffing decisions to reflect their individual needs.

“It is up to headteachers and governors to decide who is required for the job and this includes how best to cover absences.”

General secretary of teachers’ union NASUWT Chris Keates said the spending showed a “serious teacher recruitment and retention crisis”.

Max Atkins, the divisional secretary of the Wigan Branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), added: “Supply teachers do a fantastic job, going into schools often on short notice and taking over a class where the usual class teacher is off.

“However, it is a disgrace that supply agencies charge up to £250 a day for providing this essential service, whilst passing on only a fraction to the supply teachers themselves.

“The NUT has been campaigning to improve the terms and conditions of supply teachers, have the agencies regulated and a cap applied to how much they can charge schools.

“I have had a 25 per cent increase in cases so far this year with members going off sick with work-related stress.

“The relentless paperwork, meddling with the curriculum and constant testing are making it harder and harder for experienced and new teachers alike to cope, and they are leaving for a better work-life balance.

“Research shows that 50 per cent of new teachers are leaving within five years because of the stress, which is adding to the problem.

“The increase in the numbers leaving combined with another drop in applications is accelerating a crisis that the NUT has been warning about for years.

“Yet the government blunders on, knee-jerking and making U-turns every now and then. They need to listen to the professionals and act on their advice before it is too late.”

A Department of Education spokesman said: “Supply teachers provide a valuable role for schools, and schools themselves are best placed to make staffing decisions to reflect their individual needs.

“It is up to headteachers and governors to decide who is required for the job and this includes how best to cover absences.”