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Norovirus Fuels Demand for Supply Teachers says Randstad Education

Norovirus Fuels Demand for Supply Teachers says Randstad Education

•             Norovirus outbreak causes 35% rise in supply teacher jobs at the end of 2012

•             42,000 supply teachers worked each week in the build-up to Christmas term end– 11,000 more than in 2011

•             Demand for supply teachers in early 2013 already 8% higher than in 2012

•             Second half of spring term the busiest period of the year for supply teachers

•             Despite income and funding cuts in UK schools of &pound6bn (9%) between 2010 and 2012 – supply teacher usage increasing

The number of supply teachers working each week in the build up to Christmas rose by a fifth compared to 2011 thanks to record levels of sickness caused by the norovirus, according to Randstad Education, the specialist education recruiter. 

In Randstad Education’s inaugural Supply Teacher Tracker, to be published termly, figures show that the average number of supply teachers working each week over the second half of the autumn term was nearly 42,000 – 11,000 (35%) higher than the same period in 2011.

This rise has been fuelled by high levels of sickness among full-time teaching staff with the UK suffering record numbers of norovirus cases towards the end of 2012. According to the Health Protection Agency 1.2m people may have contracted the infection in the build up to and over the festive period.

Jenny Rollinson, Managing Director of Randstad Education, said: “Schools are hit harder than most when bugs begin to spread and the end of 2012 was particularly testing. Many suffered higher than usual levels of absence due to sickness among full-time staff and supply teachers were, once again, the saviours of the day. We were particularly pleased to see more schools replacing & lsquo;like with like’ when their qualified teachers were out of action. In previous years the use of teaching assistants to cover short-term sickness has, we feel, been detrimental to the quality of education provision that parents would expect as a plan B in these circumstances”

Spring Term Has Greatest Requirement for Supply Teachers

Over the last four years, the second half of the spring term has been the point in the year when the highest demand for supply teachers occurs. Since 2009, the number of supply teachers in employment each week has risen by an average of 37% between the first and second half of the spring term as schools bolster their workforce in preparation for summer exams. 

This is particularly the case in primary schools where more staff are drafted in to help with a final push to boost literacy and numeracy levels before the SATS in May and in secondary schools where invigilation requirements increase. Additionally, sickness levels remain high amongst permanent members of staff linked to the stress and fatigue of preparing for the crucial exam period - a factor which is likely to be exacerbated as GCSEs move back to more intensive exams rather than coursework.

The 2013 spring term is forecast to be the busiest yet. Since schools returned following the Christmas break, the average number of supply teachers working each week has been 8% higher than the same period in 2012. Despite the disruption caused by snow in January over 36,500 supply teachers were in UK schools each week. If the trend of rising demand for supply teachers in the second half of the spring term continues in 2013, the average number of supply teachers working each week could be over 50,000 by the time schools break up for Easter.   

Overall Supply Teacher Numbers Remain Robust

Since the coalition government was formed in 2010, and the budget for education was restructured, funding for UK schools has fallen &pound6bn , a drop of 9%. However, after an abrupt decrease in supply teacher usage in 2010, the average number of supply teachers working each week during term-time has been steadily rising. In 2012, an average of 37,000 supply teachers were working in UK schools each week, an increase of 2% on the 36,900 working each week in 2009 – before the budget cuts. In the 2011/2012 academic year the total spent by UK schools on supply staff was &pound432m

Demand particularly prevalent in some teaching areas

The average number of supply teachers working each week in either primary or secondary schools rose to 15,500 and 6,800 respectively in 2012 – 2,800 (22%) and 945 (16%) more than 2011. Larger rises were also seen in the support functions of the primary and secondary spheres. The average number of supply secondary support staff working each week in 2012 was up by over 850 (60%) to nearly 2,300, while the number working in primary support roles rose by nearly 870 (25%) to 4,300 each week. 

In contrast, decreases in supply teacher numbers were seen within special needs (SEN) support and early years. The SEN drop is partly due to an increased focus on inclusive classrooms in mainstream schools – where support professionals required for children with SEN requirements are now classified under primary support and secondary support – as opposed to dedicated SEN support.

The decrease in early years supply provision appears to be a direct result of the recessionary impact on household incomes and thus the number of children being placed into fee paying nursery care, particularly amongst the under-threes.

Jenny Rollinson, said: “Changes to the education budget and the way schools, colleges and other institutions are funded has put an increased strain on resource. Initially, some schools tried to save budget through the use of less qualified teaching assistants as short term replacements for permanent members of teaching staff or by trying to cover the workload internally. However, it quickly became apparent that neither course of action was a viable solution for UK classrooms. Over-stretched, demotivated teaching staff combined with parents challenging the suitability of teaching assistants as a replacement for teachers has led to increased pragmatism in using supply staff – particularly as schools head into one of the most crucial periods in their calendar.”


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