Chris Keats, General Secretary of the NASUWT, sought to call attention to the practices of the UK’s teacher supply agencies and the precarious conditions of the teachers who work for them.  

“The practices of many offshore umbrella companies are proving to be damaging to supply teachers who are being forced into signing dubious contracts which seek to deny them basic legal rights and entitlements and allow these agencies to dodge their tax and national insurance liabilities.” (NASUWT, 2013)

Among the pool of supply teachers working in the UK is a large number of overseas-trained teachers, for whom supply work is the most accessible employment option without Qualified Teacher Status.  

Recruitment of supply teachers from overseas increased dramatically in the late 1990s, with the greatest shortages in London (Warner, 2010). While concrete data is not available, a DFES-funded study of 1554 supply teachers in 2006 had 126 overseas-trained teachers in its sample, suggesting a healthy representation. The international recruitment of supply teachers allowed for greater flexibility in addressing teacher vacancies, especially in more challenging schools, despite difficulties in the form of ‘cultural clashes’ (Maylor et al., 2006). 

NASUWT’s has documented severe problems with the practices of supply agencies, such as gag clauses and blacklisting of teachers who complain about their conditions. Interviews with South African migrant teachers identified problems with UK supply agency recruitment practices and contracts, such as agencies’ routine failures to reveal that they would be taking a cut of teachers’ daily wages, in addition to the upfront fees they receive from the schools (Manik, 2010). One return migrant declared, “Agencies are a rip‐off! The school paid 175£ per teacher per day. However, the agency only paid the teachers 90£.”(cf. link below). In addition, teachers were not informed that, due to the temporary nature of their positions at schools, they would not be entitled to paid sick leave or holidays. They were relegated to the status of hourly wage earners and risked a reduction in hours should they raise concerns. 


Manik, Sadhana (2010) “Covert Research: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater”,  University of Kwa-Natal, Durban, South Africa.

National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT), “Teachers being exploited by unscrupulous supply agencies.” Press Release, March 9 2013

Warner, Lionel. “Overseas Trained Teachers: Part of a Problem or Part of a Solution?” Teacher Education Advancement Network 1 (2010).