Its taken a couple of days for the grandly titled Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) to respond to claims that schools are ‘at the mercy of agencies’ made during a special report on teacher recruitment by ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
ITV’s report focused on the simple fact that private recruitment firms charge what some school leaders believe are unreasonable fees which all have to be paid out of taxpayer public funding for sourcing candidates and highlighted the fact that a staggering £1.26 billion was spent on supply teachers in England in 2014/2015.
Samantha Hurley, Operations Director of APSCo, who represent over fifty commission charging teacher recruitment agencies, commented: “Some headteachers dispute an introduction fee for supply teachers working through agencies, who then get an offer of a permanent post – on the basis that the school has been paying ‘agency fees’ throughout the lifecycle of the contract.”
“The fact that this issue is even being debated seems to stem from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the supply chain actually works. Most of the ‘fee’ goes to pay the teacher – the margin that goes to the recruitment firm is relatively small. Country-wide talent shortages mean that an increasing number of schools are relying on supply teachers. These have to be sourced, interviewed and vetted – at a cost to the recruitment firm – not the school. The cost of compliance – in terms of the checks needed, and the staff to undergo those checks and keep up to date with legal requirements is high. Sourcing the right skills can often mean overseas trips to run careers fairs to attract qualified teachers to work in the UK – again this is a cost to the recruitment company – not the school.”
"While some schools may simply see investment in recruitment as a hefty expense, from our members’ perspective, recruiters [agencies] are providing a crucial service which the education of our children relies on.”
“Consequently, an introduction fee is wholly appropriate and proportionate given the amount of time and expense borne by the recruitment firm.”
Headteacher, Serge Cefai, who was interviewed for ITV’s piece, complained that “supply agencies” ‘grab hold of budding teachers before they qualify’ and said he would prefer it if teachers went back to the ‘old fashioned’ way of people applying for jobs.
In response, Hurley continues;
“When it comes to enlisting trainee teachers before they had even started job-hunting, it’s clearly up to the individual students whether they want to sign up with a recruitment firm or not.
However, this would not stop a trainee teacher from looking for work directly with schools as well, or with other recruitment firms”
“Chronic talent shortages mean that the ‘old fashioned’ way of recruiting teachers is no longer viable. Schools are struggling to recruit without help – this is not anecdotal – it is fact. A report from the National Audit Office, cites the experience of Sue Croft, principal at Oxford Spires academy in east Oxford, who said she advertised for five posts last term – physics, chemistry, business, geography and English. ‘I didn’t get any applications – not one,’ she said. She finally managed to fill the vacancies by using recruitment companies and has recently appointed five ‘brilliant’ newly qualified teachers for next September from overseas.”
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