For many years now supply teachers have had to rely on work supplied to them by agencies. As we all know there are good agencies and bad agencies, but even the better agencies take a cut of our pay, which is rightfully ours. In 2017 for example, £821 million was spent on supply teachers across the country, but £271 million, nearly £1 in every three, went to the agencies. We all know this isn’t right, but can we do anything about it?
Well, there is something we can do. The NEU in the Northern Region is in the process of developing a cooperative for supply teachers, in conjunction with the office of Jamie Driscoll, the North of Tyne Mayor and local authorities and conversations are taking place with some of the big multi-academy trusts. You would be a part owner of this agency and as a result you would keep 90% of what the school pays for you. The other 10% would go to the cooperative to help it to both keep going and expand its work and to help provide both teachers’ pension funds for you and high quality CPD.
The coop would also give you a sense of real control over your working life, instead of being at the whims of dubious market forces and having to haggle over the phone with an agency.
The main features of the coop will be as follows:
• 1. Service provision that ensures public funding for education stays within the public/not for profit sector
• 2. An agency that is more locally economically generative meaning money would stay in our region, where it is much needed, instead of leaving it.
• 3. Delivers reliability of service and quality supply staff & results in lower costs to schools, so benefitting the education of the children of our region.
• 4. Delivers fairer remuneration, better terms and conditions and continued professional development for supply staff
• 5. Multi-stakeholder approach and a democratic structure equally representative of needs of schools and supply staff
This is a great opportunity for you to be part of a really positive new initiative by your union, which sees teachers working in solidarity to the benefit of all. And while it will initially only involve schools north of the River Tyne, the intention is for it to be extended across the region as soon as possible. It is also envisaged that we will have a worker from Coops UK to help us with this exciting development.
In the second half of the 19th century, when the cooperative movement really took off in Britain, following the success of the Rochdale Pioneers in 1844, the Northeast became the region in Britain, with the highest number of cooperative members per head of population. It seems therefore highly appropriate that such an initiative as this teachers’ coop should begin in our region. Again, we can lead the way and in so doing bring you better pay and conditions, a bigger say over your career and a brighter future.
We are making progress towards the establishment of the coop, so please join the WhatsApp group to learn more about this and for discussions about other supply issues.
Peter Sagar February 2020