Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s shadow secretary for education and children, has called for the Welsh Government to urgently re-think its policy after revealing that a private agency is taking almost a third of supply teachers’ pay.
New Directions Education Ltd is a Cardiff-based firm that provides supply teachers to a number of schools in Wales and England. It retains about 30% of the money paid by schools for the supply teachers, money that previously went directly to the teachers. It also pays its two directors a dividend of £100,000 a piece and both shared a further £430,000 dividend from the firm’s parent company.
Now, as a result of a Welsh Government agreement, more and more councils are instructing schools to only use New Directions rather than employing supply teachers directly. This has prompted concerns that money from the education budget is effectively being siphoned off to the private sector.
The company, which is owned by Jeffrey and Zoe Tune, both of Cyncoed in Cardiff, were last year responsible for employing 1300 of Wales’s 4,900 supply teachers.
Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s shadow secretary for education and children, said, “I’ve been approached by a number of very demoralised supply teachers, including a constituent who was earning £115 a day as a supply teacher. She’s had a letter from Denbighshire Council to say that all schools must work through New Directions, with a few exceptions, and that will mean her pay is cut to £85.
“Another is considering giving up a job he’s done for 18 years because of the drastic cut in pay and lack of any personal development or pension payments. It’s demoralising teachers.”
Plaid Cymru has condemned the Welsh Government for failing to do more to ensure money for education remains in the system rather than backing a private company providing supply teachers throughout Wales.
Llyr Gruffydd said, “Back in 2015 a report by the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee (*) agreed that a more strategic approach was needed for supply teachers, suggesting an all-Wales model based on Northern Ireland’s system or a cooperative. That decision was kicked into the long grass by the then Government and since then private agencies have flourished. This has intensified with an all-Wales agreement with a single agency, New Directions Education Ltd.
“The agreement with New Directions comes to an end in August 2018, which should provide an opportunity to deliver a new service that keeps education money in the public sector rather than private pockets. But we now learn that the Welsh Government and Kirsty Williams have decided not to introduce a new model for supplying temporary teachers until 2019. In a letter to the education committee, the cabinet secretary explains she won’t be introducing a new model because the Assembly does not yet have control over teachers’ pay and conditions.
“This, frankly, is a poor excuse for doing nothing and kicking the issue into even longer grass.
“Plaid Cymru would like to see a not-for-profit agency set up as in Northern Ireland or a cooperative for supply teachers to coordinate with schools and local authorities. This kind of model would ensure more money goes directly to the teachers, would keep money in the education system rather than spent on dividends and create a degree of flexibility for schools and teachers alike.”
(*) The Children, Young People and Education Committee in the Fourth Assembly undertook an inquiry on supply teaching. It published its report in December 2015.
The Committee made twenty-two recommendations. This included an overarching recommendation that the Welsh Government should start work to design a new model for the employment of supply teachers. In making this recommendation the Committee acknowledged that the contract in operation used by local authorities ran until August 2018, but called on the Welsh Government to start work now to ensure that the new system is in place in readiness. The then Minister for Education and Skills, Huw Lewis accepted in full or in principle all the recommendations.
The Welsh Government established the Ministerial Supply Model Taskforce in June 2016 to consider issues around supply teachers. They considered the complexities and variations in how supply teachers are employed. Their report was published on 2 February 2017. The Cabinet Secretary for Education accepted the recommendations, but said:
“While I accept the report’s recommendations at this time, some of them raise complex legal issues which we will need to look into further. We will now begin this process, working closely with councils, schools, the teaching workforce, unions and others.”