London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Supply teachers in England

Funded by:



November 2004 - April 2006

This research was commissioned by the Department for Education and Skills to extend its knowledge of the extent and use of supply teaching, and of practice in relation to the recruitment, deployment, development and management of supply teachers in England. This will provide a better understanding of how the supply market is working, what the coming trends might be, and how quality and value for money might be improved.

The objectives of the research were to collect information on the following:

  • The reasons for and extent of schools' use of supply teachers and how their numbers vary across schools and geographical areas.
  • The characteristics of supply staff (e.g. their age, gender, ethnicity, experience, subject area, career stage, hours worked, pay and qualification levels) and to identify any patterns that emerge.
  • The factors that influence their decision to become supply teachers and, where relevant, whether anything might have convinced them to stay in the permanent sector.
  • Their future career aspirations, and what factors might encourage or dissuade them from returning to, or joining, the permanent sector.
  • Schools' procedures and practice in recruiting supply staff, and the effectiveness of these practices.
  • The deployment of supply staff, including the tasks they undertake, how their work is organised, planned and managed.
  • The nature and perceived quality of support, induction and training available for supply teachers.
  • Good practice in the management, development and deployment of supply teachers, including how current practices might be developed in the light of the remodelling agenda, to enable supply teachers to make the most effective contribution in schools.
  • The extent of awareness and perceptions of recent government initiatives such as the voluntary Quality Mark for teacher supply agencies and LEAs, and London's preferred supplier list.
  • The impact of the remodelling agenda, including the introduction of higher level teaching assistants, on the market for and deployment of supply teachers.
  • The provision of baseline data against which changes in the supply teaching population can be tracked in future years.

The research design involved collection of quantitative and qualitative data in each of three strands:

  • LEAs and agencies: a survey of all LEAs, and interviews with relevant agency and LEA staff;
  • Schools: a survey of a national sample of schools, and case studies of the way that supply teachers are used in schools;
  • Supply teachers: a survey of a national sample of supply teachers, and focus groups with a purposive sample designed to enable in-depth discussion of issues affecting different groups of supply teachers.

Data collection took place between January and May 2005.

The final report for this project is available on the Department for Education and Skill's website:

The Research Brief for the project is also available on the same site:


Project team:

Merryn Hutchings (Director)
Kathy James
Uvanney Maylor
Sarah Smart
Ian Menter, University of Glasgow


Merryn Hutchings -


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