Making the grade – developments in the supply teacher market

Rapid growth in the teacher supply market has slowed as schools seek greater value for money in the wake of budgetary pressures. That is the result of research conducted by our strategy group, based on analysis of Department for Education (DfE) school expenditure data, an online survey of schools and in-depth interviews with school leaders and supply teacher agencies.

Role of supply agencies

Schools often operate without extra qualified teachers to cover lessons in the event of teacher absences. They regularly use supply agencies to help source teachers to cover short-term absences such as sickness and training days, as well as longer-term sickness and to fill positions where the school has been unable to recruit a full-time teacher.

Changing market dynamics

But schools are facing significant staffing and budget issues:

  • Teacher shortages: schools are finding it increasingly hard to recruit high-quality teachers. This is particularly true in STEM (Science, Technology, English and Mathematics) subjects where graduates can earn significantly higher salaries by pursuing other careers, and in places such as inner London where there is a high cost of living. These shortages have increased as more teachers leave the profession and government fails to hit teacher recruitment targets.
  • Budget cuts: following a sustained period of school funding increases, school budgets have been under pressure and are expected to decline by 0.5% per annum in the next few years on a per pupil basis.

So many schools have tried to reduce their spend on short-term supply, with academies pioneering cost-cutting measures such as use of cover supervisors, instigating more flexible curriculums, longer teaching hours and merging classes. By contrast, demand for long-term cover, particularly in hard to recruit subject areas, remains robust.

Implications for agencies

Our research suggests that agencies that can demonstrate value for money and position themselves as full-service recruitment and retention partners are winning share from traditional agencies focused on short-term supply. Leading agencies are reviewing their product offering and investing in technology as means to improve operational efficiency.

Download our report to read about how we investigated the reasons for schools’ focus on value; how the use of supply is evolving, and the ways in which supply agencies are reshaping their businesses to adapt. [ 287 kb ]

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