With school budgets beginning to hit critical, across the country, too many schools are using scarce resources to fatten the profits of supply agencies. The use of “sign on or transfer” fees by supply agencies is something that rightly annoys and frustrates many school leaders.
There are certain things that “we don’t need permission” to address; this is one such case. Supply agency sign on fees usually derive from one of two routes; an agency provides a member of staff for a permanent vacancy that a school can’t fill. The scale of the fees varies but we have anecdotal reports of over £9,000 being charged; that’s ridiculous particularly since the member of staff appointed could resign within weeks of starting their new job. There is a rationale however for a reasonable “finder’s fee” in this case.
The other type of supply agency fee tends to be charged when a school appoints a member of staff – having first advertised and interviewed– who had previously been on supply at the school or more outrageously where a supply agency has randomly emailed the person’s CV to you, at some point in history. It’s time to put an end to these transfer fees; acting together it is more than possible.
Headteachers’ Roundtable has been working with SchoolsWeek and the legal firm Thrings (who kindly did this work pro bono, thank you Kate) to bring you a simple variation of contract agreement. This can be used to effectively over write the latter type of sign on fee which is written into many contracts from supply agency. What’s needed is a process of engagement, collective action and a steady nerve.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that supply agencies need you and your school’s funds to make a profit and carry on operating. The process of engagement works best if a few schools in an area get together to speak to the supply agencies most commonly used. There is often already a business relationship established and it may be using the document above and a short sequence of polite and sensible discussions the signing on fee can be removed from all future business transactions. If not simply stop using the supply agency; they will see their turnover and profits plummet and will soon be knocking on your door.
This is your trump card, I’ve used it on a number of occasions. Simply withdraw your business from the agency and either don’t use supply agencies anymore or establish a small group of supply teachers, employed on casual or permanent contracts, that you all agree to use.
By withdrawing our business from a supply agency this year the company moved from threatening to take us to court for the non-payment of a signing on fee to offering us a profit share for any supply teachers we used from their agency.
It’s important to note the caveats in the letter of variation of contract concerning the company’s name and that the letter must be signed by a director. You can find out the names of the directors of any company using a simple search of the documents at Companies House.
Final one, make sure everyone knows how to respond to unsolicited emails with CVs attached; have an immediate standard response which might be something along the lines of, “We don’t accept unsolicited CVs; please remove us immediately from your mailing list. If we do not already have a signed contract with you this email is to inform you we do n’o accept your terms and conditions.”
Good luck; it’s time to act; we don’t need permission.
Stephen Tierney is Chair of Headteachers’ Roundtable, CEO of a MAT and on social media as @LeadingLearner
Tagged: supply agency transfer fees