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

PUBLISHED: 15:25 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:32 25 September 2017

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

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

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.

“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 www.essexschoolsjobs.co.uk/ReturnToTeaching.aspx

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