Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Supply Teachers - shock troops of education

I received a letter from my MP the other day in which he put forward the basic argument that allowing “flexibility” in the employment of agency staff made it possible for agencies to provide employment and any restriction of their “flexibility” would lead to a reduction in employment prospects.

I was inclined to ask this Tory MP, “what are you, New Labour?” because you couldn’t put a Rizla between the policies of the bosses’ parties on this issue.

It is of course a downright lie that paying people less and taking away their entitlement to pension benefits leads to more employment. What it does do is to keep the private agencies afloat. Without them schools would need some system of Local Authority supply lists. This is a system that was sacrificed on the altar of privatisation.

The conference motion on supply teachers contains the line “calls on the executive to campaign vigorously”. Yet this motion stands in the name of the executive! On those grounds alone it deserves your full support. The prospect of the executive trying to galvanise themselves is to be welcomed.

For many teachers supply teaching has been a way of reducing their timetable prior to retirement now that early retirement has become virtually unobtainable and retirement on the grounds of ill health is virtually impossible unless you are actually dead.

Paradoxically, supply teachers are often the shock troops of education, sent in to hold the line when nobody else can. Have you ever covered a class and found out within five minutes exactly why the usual teacher is off with stress-related illness? Supply teachers do this all the time.

And yet they are criminally underpaid and denied their pension rights in the name of “flexibility”. If they are not directly employed by a school the agencies will not pay a penny towards their CPD and they have to rely on their own resources to keep abreast of developments in education. The only people who provide free CPD for supply teachers are the NUT.

Whether the National Executive campaigns “vigorously” or in their more usual
less-than-vigorous manner, we need to fight for supply teachers. School reps can make their colleagues aware of the injustice affecting people who work at their side. The fat cats in agencies pay them less, rob them of pensions and pocket the difference.

It will help all of us in the fight against the creeping privatisation of education

If you want to help galvanise the executive contact classroomteachers.org.uk



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