The real costs of supply

I’m Michael, a former assistant head and now CEO of SupplyWell. I co-founded SupplyWell because there is a need for change in how supply teaching provision works

Take a quick look at the last invoice you received from a supply teaching agency. A high number isn’t it! Now ask yourself how much was the teacher paid? 

Unfortunately, I can almost guarantee it will only be a small fraction of what you have been billed. There is no transparency and it’s fundamentally unfair for supply teachers, who have one of the toughest gigs in teaching. There needs to be an ethical alternative to agencies, an alternative driven by people with passion, with a goal of creating real and lasting change to keep school budgets in schools.

My role as pastoral lead meant that I spoke to supply teachers every day, and I realised that they were being paid very little for a very tricky job, often £60 a day before tax. A quick check with our business manager I discovered that invoices from traditional agencies lacked transparency, just a total invoice usually upwards of £200. Even with my maths skills I knew a £140 fee was pushing it. 

Further to this, I knew that the reality of getting supply teachers into school was a burden. The business manager at the school would come away from the phone deflated, and this is common when sourcing supply. How many times have you felt frustrated following calls with agencies? 

The time-pressured situation in the mornings was incredibly stressful and I was sometimes frustrated with the quality of the supply teachers. They were often underprepared and had little to no briefing from the agency that sent them. I knew that I needed to do more to set supply teachers up for success. I wanted supply teachers to be paid fairly and to be properly prepared for their school jobs. At SupplyWell we work with our partner schools to ensure that no matter the duration of the role, every supply teacher who joins their team is fully prepared. 

Two years ago, I was a senior leader and teacher with three whole school responsibilities that gradually became impossible to juggle. On top of this, there were pressures in my personal life, and I had to take time off due to stress. Eventually, returning to school was no longer an option for me. A familiar story for teachers, my rain barrel overflowed. 

The combination of the pressure at school and at home was too much and I became one of 42,000 teachers to leave the profession that year. I was absent from the classroom and as a result the school was charged £22,000 in supply costs. I was wondering, how much of this actually went to the teachers that covered me? How big of a chunk did the agency take? 

It was then that I was determined to be the change I wanted to see, and now two years later these are the very things that SupplyWell is working hard to rectify.  Through connecting teachers and schools directly through an easy-to-use app. We work hard to keep money within the education system, giving better pay, improved flexibility and wellbeing support to teachers. Alongside delivering high quality teachers at the fairest rates to schools. 

If, like me, you feel that things need to be done differently, let’s have a chat. Join a community of schools adopting the new ethical way of obtaining supply. We would love to have you involved. 

Call us 0333 305 0601 or email [email protected] 

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