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Why schools use supply agencies

Education recruitment agencies, including supply agencies, have become an integral part of most UK school recruitment strategies.

With the start of every academic year comes the inevitable press ‘expose’ about schools using education recruitment agencies. Usually focused on the ‘cost’ to the schools, these articles rarely focus on the benefits for a school that outsources their recruitment. As an education recruitment agency of choice for many schools in England and Wales, we’d like to share some of the reasons why these schools choose to use us, as well as a number of other reputable education recruiters.

It is important to point out that, whilst agencies are typically described as ‘supply agencies’, many of these, including Supply Desk, provide staff for a range of contract types. Day-to-day and short term supply to cover unplanned teacher absences, yes. But also to fill longer term vacancies such as maternity cover, long-term illness, and permanent positions. Just as there are myriad different reasons why organisations from most other industries use recruitment agencies as part of their overall hiring strategies, so too with schools. Here are some of the more common ones:

Using agencies saves schools time, resources, and from making poor recruitment decisions

Schools often lack the time and/or the experience to effectively screen candidates, separating the quality from the chaff. Job applicants typically oversell their abilities, enthusiasm and dedication in their CV’s, whilst other very talented teachers may have a poor CV, being inexperienced in writing them. Experienced recruiters are much better equipped to identify the worthwhile recruits. This saves schools time and resources. It also minimises a school’s risk of making a bad recruitment decision. Good agencies therefore help to improve education standards by ensuring the best possible candidates are placed in schools.


Quality agencies, accredited with the REC Audited in Education status, and with stringent registration and vetting procedures, provide a significant benefit to schools in that they ensure all compliance criteria is met before a candidate starts work. They should also ensure candidate compliance criteria is always up-to-date. This relieves schools of a huge administrative burden. Thus they can get on with their core business of educating the nation’s children.

Difficulties in recruitment due to teacher shortages
Reasons schools use supply agencies

Source: Grant Thornton UK LLP

The UK teacher shortage is well documented. With soaring numbers of pupils entering the education system, and large numbers of teachers leaving the profession, the teacher shortage is projected to increase to over 13,000 by 2021.
Less people entering into teacher training courses further compounds the shortage, because there are insufficient graduates to replace retiring teachers.

How does this influence school’s use of supply agencies? Schools that do their own recruiting say it is increasingly difficult to find suitable candidates, even after spending large amounts of money on job advertisements. It’s easier for schools to get an agency to do the recruiting for them, with no risk of out of pocket advertising expenses that come to nothing, and a large, pre-vetted pool of agency candidates from which to choose.

Quality candidates often prefer to be recruited via agencies

Increasing numbers of educators only seek work through recruitment agencies, rather than applying directly to a hiring school. Job-seekers use agencies as it’s generally a far quicker way to find a position, and larger agencies typically have a wide variety of jobs to choose from. Professional education recruiters typically have extensive knowledge of schools in their area. The best agencies will consult meaningfully with job-seekers to ensure the best possible fit between school and jobseeker. Again, this reduces the risk of a bad recruitment decision, and helps ensure a better standard of education for students.

Temp-to-Perm Options

Many schools and jobseekers like to work on a temp-to-perm basis. In this situation a teacher is appointed on a temporary contract with a view to becoming a permanent member of staff. This reduces the risk, both for schools and teachers, of making the wrong recruitment choice. It enables both parties to trial working together before making a more permanent commitment.

Access to international teacherssupply agencies Manchester: Supply Desk

Due to the decrease in teaching graduates entering the workforce, schools must broaden their search for high quality teachers. Agencies increasingly source quality teachers from nations with a surplus of teachers, such as Australia, Canada and Ireland. A significant amount of work goes into finding, vetting, and employing international teachers. It also takes a long time to recruit international teachers.  Teach In, our sister agency who does all our international recruiting, suggests that most international teachers take around 9 months of constant work to recruit, and that many international teachers change their minds during the process. Most schools simply don’t have the capacity to do this themselves. Schools benefit greatly, then, in being able to employ international teachers via an agency.

Supply agencies are a necessary part of most UK school hiring programmes

Most UK schools now use supply agencies as part of their overall recruitment mix. This happens for a combination of many of the reasons detailed above. Headteachers, SENCO’s, and other school leaders enjoy the reduced administration and time wasted when hiring through agencies. They also appreciate the benefits of hiring pre-vetted, top quality agency staff. If your school is interested in using agencies as part of their staff recruitment solution, make sure the agencies selected are highly regarded,  and with a thorough knowledge of the local area.

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