School supply teacher spending rockets by 27 per cent in two years

The amount schools are spending on supply teachers rose by 27 per cent in two years, analysis of government statistics has revealed.

According to school spending data, the total amount spent by schools on supply staff rose from £1.07bn in 2012/13 to £1.29bn in 2013/14, an increase of more than £276m.

The Labour Party has claimed that the data, coupled with earlier revelations that 50,000 teachers had left the profession this year alone, shows that the government is “risking the education of the next generation”.

School spending data, recently updated by the government to show a further rise in supply teacher spending among council-maintained schools from £941m in 2013/14 to £950m in 2014/15, also shows the amount spent by academies more than doubled from £176m in 2012/13 to £354m in 2013/14.

It also showed academies’ average annual supply teacher spend had risen by 42 per cent from £65,000 in 2012/13 to £92,500 in 2013/14. The average spent by LA-maintained schools rose by 21 per cent in the same period, from £48,800 to £59,000.

Shadow education secretary Lucy Powell (pictured) accused ministers of “mishandling” teacher training, putting off applicants and “constantly” talking down the profession, causing “thousands of teachers” to quit.

She said: “As a result, half of all schools had unfilled positions at the start of this year and are being forced to turn to unqualified staff, temporary supply teachers, non-specialists, and larger class sizes to try to plug the gaps.

“Nothing is more important for raising standards and improving social mobility than ensuring there are excellent teachers in every school. The government urgently needs to get a grip on this problem, which is affecting the education of our children, and start to take it seriously.”

It comes after a survey by the National Association of Headteachers revealed four in five school leaders had reported problems with recruitment, and after union bosses warned MPs that schools were spending tens of thousands of pounds on agency fees to recruit staff.

Russell Hobby, NAHT’s general secretary, said the supply teacher spend data highlighted the “difficulties” faced by school leaders in recruiting and retaining teachers.

He said: “Supply teachers play a crucial role in addressing short-term gaps in teacher numbers, but an increasing number of school leaders are having to rely on them more frequently, and for longer periods than in the past. These figures show an underlying problem in recruitment and retention that the government needs to address.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said it was “completely misleading” to suggest there was a chronic shortage of teachers, adding: “our increased spending on supply teachers simply reflects our increased total spending in response to rising pupil numbers.

“The overall teacher vacancy rate is 0.3 per cent and has remained under 1 per cent for the past 15 years. The 49,120 that left the profession between November 2013 and November 2014 includes those that left through death or retirement.”

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