Press Release

Substitute Teacher Cover Cost £66 Million

Session: 2011/2012

Date: Thursday, 25 November 2010

Reference: PAC 03/10/11

Substitute teacher cover costs have escalated in a decade. A report entitled ‘The Management of Substitution Cover for Teachers: Follow-up Report’ , published today by the Assembly Public Accounts Committee, shows that the costs have soared from £38 million in 2000-01 to £66 million in 2008-09.

Speaking at the launch of the Report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee said: “The Committee understands that substitution cover is a normal and unavoidable part of school management. However, this level of spending is clearly unacceptable. Our review has found that this expenditure could, with the right initiatives in place, release much needed funds for other pressing needs within education.
Also, the Committee was extremely unhappy with how schools record the reasons they need substitute cover. There is no standard method of recording; this makes it difficult to analyse the data across the sector. A £1.1 million payroll system, planned for implementation in 2005, is still not fully meeting the management information needs of all schools, and this has hindered the ability of the Department and the schools sector to properly manage the demand for substitution cover.”

The report also looked into the issue of re-employing teachers who retired early, in preference to newly qualified teachers, when substitute cover is needed. This issue was flagged up to the Westminster PAC in 2002-03 by the Comptroller and Auditor General, with assurances given by the Department to reduce the days worked by prematurely retired teachers. The current report found that, contrary to these undertakings, such employment had actually increased over the time.

Commenting on this issue, Paul Maskey said: “With nearly 2,500 newly qualified teachers desperately seeking teaching opportunities, re-employing retired teachers for substitution cover is a tragedy for our young teachers. What makes this even more reprehensible is that we were told that we could have saved £6 million in 2008/09 alone, if newly qualified teachers instead of prematurely retired teachers had provided cover.
“The Committee is disappointed that the Department, which has responsibility for this issue, did not show the will, following the previous report, to ensure that any teachers who had benefited from enhanced settlements, in particular, were barred from subsequent re-employment as a substitute teacher.”
“Clearly, the Department must up its game in addressing sickness absence and in delivering high quality substitution cover through more effective management. Given the departmental failings in dealing with the previous PAC recommendations, this Committee will be monitoring the outworkings of this report particularly closely.”

Notes to Editors:
  • The Report also noted that since the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report, the cost of sickness absence has fallen by over £3 million. It also notes that, in relation to sickness absence, a potential savings of £10 million per annum could be made, if sickness absence was reduced to the levels experienced in England.
  • The Report also conveyed the Committee’s concern about the potentially negative impact of substitution cover on educational standards and expressed the desire of the Committee for greater input by the Schools’ Inspectorate in monitoring substitute teaching. The Report noted that a similar concern was highlighted by the Westminster PAC in 2003 with an investigation carried out by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) in 2004.

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