Bill for supply teachers revealed

SUFFOLK'S public purse was stripped of nearly £40million to pay for supply teachers in the county in only four years, it has emerged today.

SUFFOLK'S public purse was stripped of nearly £40million to pay for supply teachers in the county in only four years, it has emerged today.

The cash was used to cover teacher absences through illness and maternity leave, and for those away from the classroom on school trips or courses.

The total budget for teachers' salaries in Suffolk is around £235m, meaning the expenditure on supply cover represents around four per cent of the total bill.

The cost of paying for supply teaching - which totals £37,415,000 since 2002 - has come to light following a parliamentary question tabled to schools minister Jim Knight.

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Today, a leading teaching union defended the figures, claiming they were a necessary outlay.

Chris Lines, from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), said: “Our stand has always been that if there is a known absence, the school should employ a supply teacher.

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“Using permanent staff to cover absences is not the best use of their time.

“I would actually expect to see the amount spent on supply increase because headteachers have a duty to force down the amount of cover being carried out by full time staff.

“Over the next few months, a lot of teachers will be going on courses because of the changes in the syllabuses.”

Mr Lines said teachers' non-contact time, which amounts to about 10pc per week, should only be used for preparation and marking, and not for covering absences.

He said, in theory, supply teachers should earn the same as permanent staff.

The average salary for a nursery or primary school teacher in Suffolk is £31,040, and £33,070 for a secondary school teacher.

There are a total of 6,029 teachers in Suffolk, or 5,331 full time equivalents.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said the authority did not directly spend any money on supply cover, as schools are individually responsible for managing their own teaching force.

What do you think about the figures? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail

The cost of covering supply in Suffolk

2002/03 - 9,349,000

2003/04 - 9,241,000

2004/05 - 9,463,000

2005/06 - 9,362,000

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