Zero-Hour Teaching

13 May

One of the big issues throughout the election was the debate over zero-hour contracts.  Labour even took a pledge to the electorate, set in stone I should add, that they will end exploitative zero-hour contracts.  David Cameron himself admitted that there is no way he could live on such a contract.  This got me thinking about the plight of supply teachers.

The truth is that to all intents and purposes supply teachers are living with the very definition of a zero-hour contract.  Put on restrictive contracts by agencies, in many cases teachers are only allowed to earn a weekly wage if they are released to schools by those agencies.  In some cases teachers are forced into signing away their rights under the agency workers regulations, which would entitle them to equal pay and conditions after a 12 week period in a school, or else they will not be able to access work at all.  With some local authorities awarding prefered agency status, and some even signing exclusivity deals with certain agencies, there are teachers who have no options but to sign with a particular agency regardless of how they are treated.

Those teachers, while of course always looking for work, find themselves on a zero-hours platform in so far as if their agency determine they should work, and they do not, they often find themselves blacklisted.  This means individuals have no ability to seek out supplementary work of their own or indeed, and this is crucial in terms of standards, access to professional development.

This isn’t an issue that we can pretend hits just a few teachers working in the supply sector.  Almost all teachers have or will be supply teachers at some point during their careers.  What is more, with redundancies taking place as frequently as they are at present; and budgets being cut as dramatically as they are at present, every teacher is potentially one step away from being a supply teacher.  This issue impacts everyone working in the education sector in Wales.

We should make no mistake about the extremely restrictive nature of the current supply system in Wales.  It is something I have written about on numerous occasions on this blog, including as part of my hopes for education in 2015 piece.  The Children’s Committee at the Senedd are currently looking into the issue and I feel as though it is something this particular Minister is taking seriously.  If we fail to get to grips with it in the next few years, especially given how important the supply sector is going to be during the process of curriculum development, then frankly we cannot expect to continue to see the sort of progress we have achieved in recent years, or even simply to tread water.

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