Teaching on the Cheap

Austerity measures are very familiar to every single person in this country, I’m sure, no matter what profession you’re working in. Everyone is trying to do everything on the cheap, with ‘doing more with less’ as their mantra. Teaching is no exception.

While it is fairly obvious that a reduction in spending will reduce standards anywhere, I think it’s worth highlighting how this is being done in particular in education. Every public service is fighting their corner in order to justify their existence and their funding, and this is intended as an argument as to why you can’t scrimp on education.

There are two main ways in which costs are kept down in teaching: by using inexperienced staff and by using unqualified staff.

Teachers in their first few years on the job are cheaper, and hiring them means you can get the same amount (not quality) of work from them for less money. You could argue that a lot of the bullying and workload issues are caused by SMT trying to get quality from inexperienced staff, i.e., by forcibly squeezing it out of them.

The problem here is that teachers automatically move up the main scale each year, so that employing an NQT as a cheap option becomes expensive by default. This could be one reason why new teachers are bullied out of the job early on: they are cannon fodder, and can be easily replaced year on year with desperate unemployed graduates.

Similarly, I’ve noticed a new trend in older, more expensive  teachers suddenly being hounded out of their job on capability proceedings, after years of good and outstanding lessons. The truth is that evidence they are incapable has been manufactured to get them out of the door, to be replaced with someone cheaper.

There has been a rise in recent years in the use of unqualified staff to teach lessons in order to reduce costs. Most notably this has been in the creation of the role of cover supervisor, who covers all lessons internally in a school where previously external supply teachers would be used. Supply agencies generally now only sign up cover supervisors and there is zero work for a qualified supply teacher.

Higher level teaching assistants are used in a similar way, some even planning and delivering lessons regularly. In positions where there is a high staff turnover of teachers, unqualified staff can be left covering lessons for an extended or large percentage of the time.

So, some students receive most of their education from unqualified teachers, and the new school models of free schools and academies further erode the requirement for a teacher to actually be qualified.

As I’ve already mentioned in part, costs are also kept down by bullying and workload issues. Qualified, experienced staff employed on a long term basis can still be used to provide a cheap service by piling more work on them, in particular administrative duties, which will allow less staff to be employed overall. Bullying someone can force them to agree to unreasonable demands like this.

Have you been replaced by someone cheaper? Have you witnessed quality suffer through the use of unqualified staff? Please comment below.


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