Supply teacher system needs reviewing – says National Assembly committee

Published 16/12/2015   |   Last Updated 16/12/2015


The system to provide supply teachers in Wales should be reviewed according to a National Assembly for Wales committee.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee is recommending that the Welsh Government should consider alternative models to fill the gaps caused by teacher absence as it believes the current system, with one agency fulfilling a contract for all of Wales, isn’t working well enough.

Around 1,500 people completed a survey for the Committee to give a picture of how supply teaching works around the country.

It found that almost a quarter of school pupils are taught by a supply teacher at least once a week, and that 30 per cent are taught by a different supply teacher each time.

While 60 per cent of those surveyed said pupils carry on with the same work when taught by a supply teacher, 80 per cent said pupils learned less and that children’s behaviour deteriorated.

The Committee has also raised concerns around a lack of reliable data detailing the reasons for teachers taking sick leave. This, the Committee notes, could be addressed under new guidance issued by the Welsh Government while the inquiry was underway.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of supply teachers was also examined by the Committee, with particular concerns raised around the cost and availability of CPD. Newly Qualified Teachers’ (NQTs) difficulties with fully demonstrating their attainment of professional standards was also a concern highlighted in evidence to the Committee.

NQTs make up the majority of the supply teacher network in Wales.

“Supply teaching is an essential part of the education system,” said Acting Chair of the Committee, David Rees AM.

“While teacher absence is inevitable, it must be a common goal to help ensure that where cover teaching is required it can be delivered effectively, and is of the highest standard, in order to provide pupils with continued quality learning.

“We note that the Welsh Government’s guidance, issued during the course of our inquiry, may address some of the concerns raised.

“But our overarching recommendation calls on the Welsh Government to look at a range of options for the employment of supply teachers, including cluster arrangements operated by local authorities, or through a national body.”

The Committee makes 23 recommendations in its report, including:

  • The Welsh Government should start work to design a new model for the employment of supply teachers;
  • The Welsh Government should undertake research immediately to establish, (a) whether there is an increased use of supply teachers in disadvantaged areas, and (b) the causes of any increase;
  • The Welsh Government should consider urgently the implications for NQTs who are used as supply teachers, to enable them to be able to fully demonstrate their attainment of professional teacher standards; and
  • The Welsh Government must provide clarity on how the New Deal and School Development Plans can be used to positively support the CPD needs of supply teachers, particularly those on shorter-term contracts.

Report by the Children, Young People and Education Committee: Inquiry into Supply Teaching (PDF, 1MB)

More information about the Children, Young People and Education Committee