Schools hiring bouncers instead of supply teachers to cover lessons

Schools are recruiting nightclub bouncers, prison officers and ex- soldiers to stand in for absent teachers.

Classroom supervisors with military or law enforcement backgrounds are being hired instead of supply teachers to administer ‘crowd control’.

One secondary school in North London employed two permanent teacher stand-ins through an agency for professional doormen, the National Union of Teachers annual conference heard.

They were chosen as they were ‘stern and loud’, said Andrew Baisley, a delegate from North London.

The bouncers were checked for criminal records but given no training. Within weeks, one was dismissed after breaching disciplinary codes.

Job adverts for cover teachers increasingly appeal for applicants with a forces background or police training, the delegates heard.

A recruitment agency operating in the West Midlands area is advertising for ‘hard core’ classroom supervisors who can ‘control the kids in schools’.

The market for supply teachers is rapidly shrinking as schools take on cheaper stand-ins who can keep order while pupils work on preprepared assignments.

Instead of using supply teachers, which can cost £200 a day, equivalent to nearly £40,000-a-year, schools increasingly employ cover supervisors who are often paid less than £20,000, it was claimed.

Delegates at the conference in Cardiff condemned the growing trend for schools to use ‘cover supervisors’ instead of supply staff when regular teachers call in sick or go on maternity or paternity leave. Provided they pass security checks, the supervisors need no teaching qualifications.

But the NUT said the supervisors provided ‘education on the cheap’ and in some cases were standing in for absent teachers for periods of up to six weeks. Mr Baisley, a maths teacher at Haverstock School in Camden, North London said some schools appeared to believe a tough demeanour was the only attribute necessary to be a cover supervisor.

‘I know of bouncers being employed specifically because they are bouncers to cover lessons,’ he said.

‘The idea is that it’s about crowd control and childminding, that if you are stern and loud that’s what’s necessary to do the job.

‘The problem is we need someone who’s trained with children, to be able to interact with children.’

He refused to name the school which had hired two bouncers but said they had little or no training in dealing with children or school policies.

Growing numbers of job adverts for cover supervisors are appealing for applicants with a military, security or law enforcement background.

One advert posted by a recruitment agency in the West Midlands said: ‘You might be an ex-Marine, police officer, bouncer, policeman, fireman, sportsman or actor. Whichever it is we need someone who thinks they can get involved in a school environment and control the kids in schools.’

The use of cover supervisors is soaring after new teachers’ contracts introduced five years ago put limits on the number of hours they should cover for absent colleagues. It also granted them one day a fortnight away from pupils for marking and preparation.

Conference delegates voted to begin a campaign for classes to be taken by properly qualified teachers.

Schools Minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: ‘Our guidance is clear that cover supervision should only be used as a short-term solution, to provide continuity when the regular teacher is unavailable.’


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