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Helen’s Story

I’m a mother. I’m a teacher. I’ve held management and leadership roles in schools.

A few years ago I answered a plea for help from a former school. They needed cover for their Director of Mathematics while the incumbent was on maternity leave. The importance of core subjects always makes such roles challenging, but I found this post particularly stressful and demoralising. Why? Because I didn’t have the resources I needed to give the children the greatest potential to succeed, yet beyond that barrier, I knew that the children could thrive.

“I didn’t have the resources I needed to give the children the greatest potential to succeed”

Under-manning in my department meant over-reliance on supply teachers. We’ve had some great supply teachers help our team, however their talent is too often wasted on ‘crowd control’. Lack of extended interaction with the children hinders all our understanding of how best to challenge each individual pupil. It also means that the school is haemorrhaging money to pay agency fees, as well as burdening the permanent teachers with additional planning and marking responsibilities, impacting everyone’s wellbeing.

The missed opportunities were clearly obvious. Without such high loss of money, we could have:

  • Afforded hard copies of text books and a variety of resources for students. This would have better supported differentiation in the class room, so that each pupil is challenged and none are left behind. It would also have helped those without internet at home (yes, we have some) to access the learning resources they need.

  • Run many more intervention sessions, including 1-on-1 tuition for those needing the extra lift to achieve their future potential.

  • Taken supply teachers on permanently. When we found supply teachers that we really liked, the agencies’ transfer fees meant the difficult choice of not taking them on to avoid short-term expenditure, or depleting the budget even further, which would mean even less money to spend in-year on enhancing the children’s education.

  • Provided a better working environment for teaching staff, improving their wellbeing and maximising retention.
“Supply teachers are being driven to new careers due to the low pay from agencies, so there aren’t enough to meet everybody’s needs”

Teaching is impacted more when we can’t get supply teachers. By the time an agency had told us they couldn’t find somebody, we’d missed the opportunity to get a teacher from another agency. And chatting to those who supported us, supply teachers are being driven to new careers due to the low pay from agencies, so there aren’t enough to meet everybody’s needs.

Something needs to change.

Whilst there are alternatives to agencies, they require more time and resources to manage. Time and resources we just don’t have. These alternatives are rarely sustainable in the long term. They don’t fulfil the optimum balance of benefits for all 3 groups in need – schools, teachers and pupils.

“There has to be a better way”

For me, the most gut-wrenching of all is the downward spiral that the excessive spending on agencies is causing. In these circumstances the school can never hope to recover. The opportunity for the pupils in our catchment area to achieve their future potential is inevitably suffering.

I came home one evening frustrated, and exclaimed to my husband that there has to be a better way. We need an ethical way of plugging our manning gaps. A provider driven by the benefits to all of us – CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND TEACHERS. Not driven by profit. With no such provider out there, that’s what we decided to become.

Does Helen’s story resonate?

If so, get in touch to find out how we can make a difference together, and how much you or your school could have to spend where it matters.

Contact us here