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Autumn term planning: Bridging the gap with supply cover

Schools are continually navigating the changes happening in education due to Covid-19 and strategies become outdated almost as soon as they’re written.

The constant factor in all these changes is the value of the teaching staff. Staff that have carried on throughout the Covid-19 crisis, working even longer and harder than ever. Staff that have gone above and beyond to ensure that pupils have been able to continue learning.

Attention is now being turned to potential catch-up lessons over the summer and preparations for the Autumn term. However you look at it, the pressures on all educators are not going away anytime soon.

What lies ahead?

What the Autumn term will look like is still uncertain. If some form of social distancing is still required, then classes will need to be divided into smaller ones. Clearly an issue for schools without the space, but even those that have the space will not necessarily have enough staff to cover the extra classes.

Whole year group ‘bubbles’ have now been suggested as a solution to enable all children to return to school in September, which will minimise contact between children. However, it will mean that an entire year group and associated staff will then need to quarantine, should a Covid-19 case be detected.

There is also the prospect of staff having to quarantine at any given time if they develop symptoms or have been anywhere near a confirmed case, whether that is in school or elsewhere.

The potential for disruption is massive and for schools trying to plan for this, it can almost seem insurmountable.

Wellbeing of full-time staff

Regardless of all the issues schools are facing, everyone agrees that the best place for children to learn is at school. The last few months have taught us that homeschooling is no substitute for the classroom.

Headteachers know that they need to give full-time staff the break they need over the summer, albeit that some preparation work will need to continue. Heads and senior leader also know that they will need to balance a fluctuating need for additional staff during the Autumn term, to keep the stress levels of their own staff at a stable level.

Supply cover

Schools are therefore wisely looking to supply cover to help them bridge any gaps with full-time staff.  There are many highly qualified professionals who can step in and many of whom have had no work during lockdown, so would be more than willing to pick up additional tuition over the summer months and beyond.

Traditionally finding good-quality supply cover has been laborious—and expensive. There’s the inconvenience of finding out at 8pm that you need cover and not being able to arrange anything until the morning, plus the reliance on the agency’s consultant to find a candidate with the right qualifications and experience. Calls back and forth are time-consuming, supply staff arrive unprepared and to top it all off the agency’s fees are extortionate, eating into a school’s precious budget.

There is another way

There are agencies out there that are more ethical and set up purely to cater for providing cover to the education sector. Agencies like Just Education, whose entire ethos works on the basis that schools and supply staff deserve a fairer deal.

Navigating your way through the myriad of agencies can be tough but doing your research will pay dividends in the long run. We’ve created a checklist to help you cover the key considerations:

ConsiderationYes/No
Have staff that have worked in or have experience of the education sector
Can provide a variety of types of cover for different specialisms
Do not charge a fee to register
Complete all interviews, vetting and safeguarding before candidate is made available
Have candidates near your location
Have an online platform available 24/7 that’s easy to use and search by qualifications etc
Give you direct contact with candidates
Allow you to make your own shortlist and offers
Have transparent fees that are not inflated (most schools pay 10% more than necessary)
Pay workers fairly and don’t deduct unnecessary fees from them
Charge a flat admin fee if you convert a candidate from supply to permanent
Communicate well and check in regularly for feedback

Know your rights

Some supply agencies threaten to charge high transfer fees if staff move to another supplier. In many cases, the law prevents them from charging you. This means that if you have supply staff you like and want to keep using them but through a different agency, you can do just that—without penalties.  A good agency can also help you with this process.

Just Education is a shining example of what a difference a good agency can make to a school. They are education people first and recruiters second. By keeping overheads and fees low without compromising on quality, they are truly leading the way in revolutionising supply cover.

To find out more visit justeducation.co.uk or talk to the team on 01242 388800.

Jo Goode
QVM – Education Sector Specialist

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