School agency staff spend tops £15m in three years as Essex tackles recruitment crisis

Agency education staff spending cost �15m in Essex over the last three years. Stock image. Picture:

Agency education staff spending cost �15m in Essex over the last three years. Stock image. Picture: DAVE THOMPSON/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Agency school staff in Essex cost more than £15million over the past three years.

Although the figure represents just 1.44% of the total education salary spend, the authority says it recognises recruiting teachers is “challenging” – as a programme to get former teachers back into the classroom closes to applicants this week.

Last year, £4,732,730 was spent on agency staff, compared to £5.6m in 2015-16 and £4.9m in 2014-15.

For 2015-16, among the highest individual school spends were £166,036 at the North East Essex Alternative Provision School, a referral unit for pupils who do not thrive in a mainstream school – £92,632 at Powers Hall Infants in Witham, and £82,442 at Silver End Primary School.

The highest agency spend was at Roding Valley High School in Loughton, which spent £343,513 on agency staff in 2015-16.

The total education staff salary over the last three years in Essex was £1.062bn.

Ray Gooding, county councillor for education, said: “A strong supply of good quality teachers is vital in ensuring pupils in Essex continue to receive the best possible education.

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“We recognise the recruitment and retention of teachers continues to be challenging and are working very closely with the county’s schools to try and tackle the issue.

“As active members of a strategic group set up to explore and implement new teacher recruitment and retention strategies in Essex, we have led on various initiatives.

“The latest, a return to teaching programme, resulted in a number of participants successfully securing teaching posts and we are currently seeking applicants for the next course.

“Whether people have taken time out to raise a family, pursue another career or for any other reason, our programme could give them just the help and support they need for a return to the profession.”

The intensive Return to Teaching course aims to help the former teachers get up-to-date with the curriculum, assessment and teaching practice, giving them the confidence, knowledge and support to go back to the profession.

A second round of the programme, which is free to participants, begins next month and applications must be made by this Thursday, September 28.

Jerry Glazier, Essex NUT executive member, said: “There are a number of factors, and there is an increasing teacher shortage and that means schools – secondary in particular – are finding it difficult to find maths, science and other teachers, which means they rely more heavily on supply staff.

“There’s also a worry that as school budgets are being constrained schools are cutting back.

“It is getting worse because of the unattractiveness of teaching as a profession, due to a decline in real terms pay of 15% since 2010 and workloads.”

• For information or to register for the Return to Teaching Programme visit

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