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    An open letter to Michael Russell


    Dear Mr. Russell,

    I am writing this letter to bring your attention to the effects of the new pay arrangement deal on supply teachers. I have read in newspapers that you are aware of the supply teachers shortage crisis unfolding in Scottish schools. Your solution is to train more teachers.

    You must know and understand that the real reason for this shortage is not the number of teachers but the pay arrangement deal reached between the Scottish Government, Education Institute of Scotland (EIS), and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA).  In this deal a new unfair pay system was introduced. This confusing multi tier pay system has forced some supply teachers out of the profession, as they can no longer afford to work as a teacher. Instead of the getting paid at their normal rate short-term supply teachers now get paid a basic rate of £15.63 per hour and they only get paid for 5 hours per day for the first 5 days. Due to harsh budget cuts schools are encouraged to save money by hiring supply staff for 5 days or less and then hiring a different supply teacher for the next week. This gaming of the system to save money means a supply teacher can work every day of the month but still only get paid at the lowest possible rate giving them an effective salary of nearly half of their normal rate. This is less than a classroom assistant salary yet supply teachers bear all of the uncertainty and lack of benefits of a temporary worker. This is a system, which encourages devaluation and abuse of supply staff - an already very taxing job.
    Children will also be greatly impacted, being given a succession of supply teachers who have to get used to a new school and classes every 5 days.  

    In any other industry paying like this would not stand for a moment. If you were to say to a plumber you'll pay them a lower rate because "it's the first five days", what would they say?

    I am a supply teacher while I (like most other supply teachers) apply for every permanent job advertised in my local authority but there are hundreds of teachers applying for each post so it is a very hard market to get a permanent job. Last year only one in five newly trained teachers got a job and some of them had to find jobs outside Scotland. You can understand how training more teacher is only wasting taxpayers money, the same money can be used to pay supply teachers fairly.

     The other reason given for training more teachers is that in last 12 months the number of supply teachers claiming job seekers allowance has fallen by 29%.  This does not prove that there are less unemployed teachers now than a year ago. What it might show that not all of the unemployed teachers are on the JSA register. The nature of supply work is such that they are uncertain when they will get work and would still not class themselves as unemployed just because they got only 1 day work, or because they are effectively using income support benefits to supplement their reduced income.

    I think the real reason for the fall in teachers claiming JSA is not because they all have got teaching jobs now, it is because they have probably given up of ever finding a permanent job and have left the teaching profession to find work in other careers.

    Supply teachers are really struggling to pay their bills. Someone on point 6 of the scale who might have earned £37k last year is effectively earning £15k now, you can imagine how people would struggle to run a household on half the salary. Would you care to speculate how they should deal with this? Should they get another job in the evening or quit the profession entirely?

    You yourself admitted that the changes in the teachers’ settlement were at the root of the supply shortage problem” but still you would rather waste taxpayers money on training more teachers while there already thousands of teachers are jobless in Scotland.

    Here are newspaper articles highlighting the plight of supply teachers you might find interesting

    I would be grateful if you could look into this issue as these new pay arrangements are unfair and damaging to the teaching ecosystem in Scotland. The shortage of supply teachers proves that these arrangements are also unworkable and need to be changed as soon as possible. Training more teachers might flood the supply pool for a few months in summer but the newly qualified will quickly find themselves in exactly same place as all the other supply staff do and in order to earn a living they would also turn to other careers and we will have same problem of supply shortage again. The only solution to this problem is to restore the fair pay for supply teachers from the day one.

    I will look forward to a response to my letter.

     Yours faithfully,


    Sumera Tarbard

    Teacher of Mathematics

    Founder of