Within the UK, a record number of teachers are leaving the profession. In 2016, schools recorded a loss of 9.5 percent of staff, the highest level for more than ten years. In addition, the number of people choosing the teaching profession is in decline, with fewer people applying for teacher training schemes. The impact of this has been an increased need for temporary staffing solutions; schools now spend over £1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) annually with education staffing agencies.

Many of these substitute or “supply” teachers are unqualified, requiring only simple compliance procedures—such as background checks—to be able to work in a classroom setting.

The staff working in the 25,000 schools across the UK, many of whom are now from overseas, require continuous professional development (CPD) to maintain standards outlined by OFSTED, the Office for Standards and Education, the school regulation and inspection body. The high turnover of staff has increased the pressure on schools and education staffing agencies to ensure individuals have opportunities to access personalized CPD when it is needed most.

Schools do offer CPD, and education supply agencies do endeavor to train supply teachers before they are placed. However, the challenge has been attracting sufficient attendance to face-to-face sessions, with feedback being that the location and duration of classes can make them difficult to commit to, particularly when they are not mandatory.

The skill gap/need

Having no teaching experience and being placed in a school to cover a teacher’s class can be very daunting. A wet and windy Friday afternoon combined with a group of 35 14-year-olds and a word search to deliver can prove difficult, even for the most experienced teacher.

Knowledge of how students learn, strategies to engage a class, and techniques to build effective professional relationships are essential. Without this, behavior will deteriorate, which has a direct impact on the progress and achievement of children and young people, which in turn drives down educational standards.