Wigan teachers off more than 200 days a week due to illness

A teacher in a classroom
A teacher in a classroom

Wigan’s teachers miss more than 200 days a week due to illness, which education experts say supply teacher agencies exploit to “cream” money away from schools.

The National Education Union called on the Government to do more to stop supply agencies charging large fees to schools already struggling financially.

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The Department for Education estimates this costs schools up to £75m a year nationally.

In the last academic year, Wigan schools lost 9,424 days to teacher sickness, according to the latest DfE figures. This equates to 242 days a week over the school year.

If schools covered every sick day with a supply teacher, on the average daily rate of £124, they would be paying £1.2m year. And this does not include the “substantial” and undisclosed fees which agencies charge schools. The National Union of Teachers claimed some agencies charged up to £100 per day.

NEU assistant general secretary Andrew Morris said: “Supply agencies cream off millions of pounds every year from schools, charging them substantial fees while paying supply teachers appallingly.

“The DfE is actively supporting agencies when it could be adopting a Northern Ireland model, where a Government-backed scheme puts schools and supply teachers in direct contact, saving schools money and paying teachers more.”

According to a NEU survey, 81 per cent of supply teachers now get work through agencies nationally, as opposed to 50 per cent in 2010.

In Wigan, in 2017-18, nine per cent of schools were reporting a staff vacancy, and there were 19 posts filled temporarily.

However, if a school wants to make a temporary teacher permanent, they will have to pay a finder’s fee to the agency.

Last summer education secretary Damian Hinds launched a website to link schools directly with supply teachers. He said: “Every pound that’s spent on excessive agency fees or on advertising jobs is a pound that I want to help schools spend on what really matters.”