CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Southern Daily Echo
Hampshire state schools have spent more than £11m in a 12-month period on supply teachers to plug gaps in the classroom, the Southern Daily Echo reports.
The trade unions say that half of the money goes to private companies who are benefiting from the growing problems in staff retention.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) said money going to private agencies is draining the public sector.
The new figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request and show that schools spent £8.47m on supply teachers in Hampshire in 2016-17 and £2.56m in Southampton in 2015-16, the last year figures were available.
Sholing Technology College in Southampton spent the highest amount at £246,116.08, followed by Mount Pleasant Junior (£211,382.67) and Bitterne Junior (£140,733.97).
This compares with Tanners Brook Primary who only spent £1,289.79, Springwell (£2,132) and Vermont (£3,326).
Paddy Marshall, regional secretary of the NUT, said: “The figures obtained showing the money spent on supply teachers in Hampshire and Southampton highlight a scandal replicated across the region.
Each year millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money intended for schools goes instead to supply teacher agencies. This isn’t right
“It is an outrage that of the money spent on supply teachers, up to 50% won’t be spent on pupils or to ensure the fair payment of supply teachers, but instead go into the pockets of private supply agencies.”
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, the largest teachers’ union, added: “Each year millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money intended for schools goes instead to supply teacher agencies. This isn’t right.
“Agencies can charge schools well over £200 a day, keeping half or more of this for themselves. Agency supply teachers are paid far less than other teachers and are not allowed access to the teachers’ pension scheme. An alternative approach is needed which prioritises fairness rather than profits.”
The Daily Echo previously reported that Southampton will lose an average of £775 in funding per pupil by 2019/20 and Hampshire £962, but which the DfE has dismissed as exaggerated.
But we recognise that schools are facing cost pressures and will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways
Headteacher Martin Brown of Sholing Technology College said: “Whilst the supply costs for the period mentioned seem high the school at this time faced a number of challenges including long-term staff sickness, maternity cover and significant vacancies as a result of the national shortage of maths and science teachers.
“Whilst funding cuts have impacted upon schools at both a national and local level including our own and will continue in the foreseeable future, we are committed to preserving the quality of teaching provision at TSTC.”
Councillor Roy Perry, leader of Hampshire County Council, insisted that it has helped schools by negotiating a flexible contract with 11 supply teacher agencies that ensures that schools get the best price.
He said: “Whilst there are significant sums of money involved, reflecting the large number of schools across the county, these amounts represent 1.5% of the total school budgets.
“The figure also reflects a decrease in spend from previous years.”
Cllr Darren Paffey, cabinet member for education at Southampton City Council, said schools try to minimise the use of supply staff.
He added: “One constant that applies to all schools and colleges is that they strive to provide the best learning environment that they can and this will sometimes require the use of supply staff to cover sickness, maternity leave or staff vacancies.”
A DfE spokesman said: “The latest figures show that there are more teachers than ever before – up 15,500 compared to 2010, as well as more returning to the profession.
“The core schools budget has also been protected in real terms since 2010 and is set to rise from £41bn in 2017-18 to over £42bn in 2019-20 with increasing pupil numbers.
“But we recognise that schools are facing cost pressures and will continue to provide support to help them use their funding in cost effective ways.”