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Why it makes financial sense to look after teachers' wellbeing - the true cost of Cover

Rachel Bostock

Virtual Assistant & School Business Management Consultancy

I have worked as a School Business Manager for over 10 years, in 4 very different schools and have seen supply budgets range from £40,000 per annum in a 900-student secondary in Staffordshire to £200,000 per annum in a 1400 student secondary in Sandwell.

In both schools the message was the same – reduce the supply costs….

Supply isn’t just a financial problem – supply cover has an impact on the entire teaching department and associate staff – from the stressed-out School Administrator receiving phone calls at 7am in the morning and phoning agencies to arrange cover, to the Head of Department rushing around at 8.30am trying to plan a lesson for the supply teacher, to the Leadership Team member on duty having to go to the supply teacher’s classroom to address behaviour issues.

Please don’t get me wrong - there are some excellent supply teachers out there, undertaking long-term cover roles in schools. What I am talking about is the last-minute supply needed to cover ad-hoc teacher absence, because the teacher genuinely is unable to come to school that day because they can no longer cope with the pressures.

As a School Business Manager, I can sit on the side-lines and observe. I am on the coal face so to speak; however, I have never needed to get in there and do the mining…. And for the last ten years I have seen the massive impact financial cuts, increased accountability, student behaviour and changing policy has had on schools and teachers. The education system in England is at crisis point. Something drastic does have to happen to put a halt on the number of teachers leaving the industry.

One way to try to reverse what is happening which could have a positive effect in reducing supply costs is to do more to look after the wellbeing of our teachers and support staff. We need to genuinely listen to what is being said and to look at early intervention strategies – to stop problems escalating. Here are a few ideas:

Clock Watching - Teachers work incredibly long hours and are professionals. If they do leave the school at 3.30pm, as allowed in their contract, don’t hold that against them – they could very well be going home to work.

Celebrate Success – Pop in to class to praise the positives. If you do need to discuss something more serious with a teacher, they will then be much more receptive.

Give them something they don’t necessarily need for free – This could be organising a company to collect staff ironing on Friday or getting a local company to come in once a month to clean staff cars. Two fewer chores to worry about at the weekend.

Flu Jabs – Offer free flu jabs. This not only reduces sickness absence in February (the worst month for absence) but staff feel you are genuinely looking out for their wellbeing.

Sports Sessions – Hire a personal trainer to set-up some fitness classes after school. Walking or running is great for mental health – set up a club.

In January 2012, there were 8.2 million pupils attending 24,372 schools in England (including nursery schools, state-funded primary schools, state-funded secondary schools, special schools, pupil referral units and independent schools.)

If we assume that every one of these schools spent £10,000 a year on supply, even on 2012 figures, the education industry is currently spending £243,720,000 a year on supply costs.

Teacher wellbeing affects everyone: colleagues, students, governors, budgets. We need to look after the people who are inspiring our next generation.

Rachel Bostock

Virtual Assistant and School Business Management Consultancy

Tel: 07985 471060

24th April, 2018

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