Teachers’ union highlights systemic exploitation and abuse of capability procedures

Posted On: 
30th March 2016

At its annual conference on Monday, representatives of the NASUWT teachers’ union released anecdotal evidence of the widespread exploitation of supply teachers and abuse of capability procedures.

Representatives of NASUWT, the UK’s largest teachers’ union, called for an end to the exploitation of supply teachers and ‘capability abuse,’ and clarity over the Chancellor’s school funding reform, at its annual conference held in Birmingham.

The results of a NASUWT survey of almost 1000 supply teachers was released at Monday’s conference, revealing widespread exploitation in the sector.

65% of respondents said they were not paid at a level that recognises their experience, while 68% said they had not been made aware of the 12 week rule under the Agency Workers’ directive. This directive states that after 12 weeks in one workplace, they should have the same pay and conditions as teachers on permanent contracts.

Additionally, 11% of supply teachers working through agencies had been asked to waive their rights to this provision.

One respondent in Wales stated that having found full time work in a school from January to June, the agency told them they would have to accept weekly agency pay, or the school would have to pay £3000 to ‘release’ them:

“This means I have not had pay over the holidays, I've had no CPD opportunities, no mentoring and no sick pay. I do not intend to stay in the profession beyond next year,” said the respondent.

“Supply teachers are a vital resource for schools especially in the light of the current recruitment and retention crisis,” said General Secretary Chris Keates.

“Yet the poor treatment of supply teachers is unfortunately entirely representative of the unacceptable employment practices which are found in too many workplaces across the country and which the government fails to address.

“The NASUWT is continuing to campaign for better regulation of supply agencies to end unscrupulous practices, such as forcing supply teachers to sign exploitative contracts and waive their legal rights and entitlements.”

Representatives at the conference, also called on the Government for greater clarity and detail of how its plans to reform the funding formula will impact on individual schools, and to ensure effective arrangements are in place to safeguard standards of educational provision in all schools during the transition to the new system.

“Given the Government’s track record of cuts to school budgets and at a time when further austerity measures are being planned,” said Keates, “the NASUWT is concerned that the revised funding formula is likely to create winners and losers, with the consequent impact on children’s education.

“A funding system for schools that is capable of recognising local needs and circumstances and which is democratically accountable must be the best way to ensure that the needs of children and young people across very different contexts and circumstances are met.”

Also highlighted at the conference was the abuse of ‘capability procedures’ which the union claims is creating a climate of fear in schools, ‘driving teachers out of the profession and affecting their health.’

Research by NASUWT found that rather than being used as a supportive process for teachers, older teachers, black and minority ethnic teachers and teachers with disabilities were particularly likely to be threatened with capability procedures as a ‘punitive tool.’

“Examples of teachers who have challenged the failure of a school to award them their rightful pay progression and are then threatened with capability procedures are rife,” Keates added.

“Teachers with disabilities face the threats when they ask for reasonable adjustments to support their disability. Threats of capability procedures are increasingly being seen as a cheaper alternative to redundancy.”