Huge difference in money spent on supply teachers at Islington schools

SOME Islington schools are spending up to ten times more money on supply teachers than others - but they insist the figures are nothing to do with staff sickness.

Highbury Fields School, in Highbury, and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (EGA), in Islington, both forked out almost �300,000 on temporary teaching cover last year - compared to just �29,000 at Islington Arts and Media (IAMS), in Finsbury Park, and �32,000 at St Aloysius’ Roman Catholic College, in Archway.

Matthew Sinclair, director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which obtained the figures, said: “Many parents are very concerned when they see their children being taught by a series of different supply teachers rather than enjoying a stable learning environment with a regular teacher.”

But Jo Dibb, headteacher at EGA, a specialist language college in Risinghill Street, Islington, has hit back, calling the figures “misleading and far too simplistic”.

“Some schools employ three full-time cover teachers out of their normal budget to take classes when teachers are away and this doesn’t show up on the supply teacher figures,” she explained. “We don’t do that as when a drama teacher is off we want a specialist drama teacher to cover that lesson, not a history one.

“We also don’t employ cover supervisors - teaching assistants who have taken extra training - because we think that cover should be done by qualified teachers.

“We certainly don’t have high sickness levels here - in fact staff sickness has gone down 60 per cent in the last five years. But supply teacher budgets are not just about sickness anyway. We believe that as well as learning in classrooms, pupils benefit from going to the theatre and museums and if the teachers take them out then we need to pay for specialist cover.”

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In total last year, Islington schools spent a total of �1.2million on supply teachers last year - a figure many argue could easily be slashed.

Ken Muller, assistant secretary of the Islington branch of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), said: “The figures from the Taxpayers’ Alliance are open to mischief making, but we do think the council should employ a central pool of supply teachers.

“Not only would the schools get to know and trust the teachers, it would also save money that could be better spent on the kids, as supply teachers get paid around �120 a day and the agency gets another �50 on top of that.”

Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for children and young people, said: “The big issue in Islington is not the relatively small amounts spent on supply teachers but the massive Government cuts that will affect schools, council services, the NHS and Police.

“School budgets are managed by the schools themselves, and the vast majority keep to their budget each year.”