There is a mass of confusion surrounding supply teacher salaries and how much supply teachers actually earn after tax. To add to this, the abundance of negativity surrounding the profession along with murky portrayals of agencies, would be enough to turn many people away from a much-needed business during the current crisis in teacher recruitment. So how much do supply teachers really earn? To answer this, I’ve been out and spoken to both supply staff and agencies to try and address some of the myths about supply teacher pay and misconceptions about how umbrella schemes really affect supply teachers earnings as well as what this could mean for the future of supply work.

Supply Teacher Salary

Supply teaching pay rates are variable and are dependant on the role, experience, location and differing agency rates. Supply teacher salaries average between £100- £124 a day and can go up to £150 depending on experience. Pay is usually more within London. Supply teachers earn relatively well when considering the hours worked, while permanent teachers will be paid the same regardless of extra hours put in, extra-curricular activities and taking work home. Many supply teachers also have the option of being paid on a convenient weekly basis.

Make sure you are paid fairly, in line with your role and experience. Some schools have been known to take on supply teaching assistants to carry out teaching work in order to save costs. This is not ethical and supply workers have a right to be paid correctly and not be forced to take on work that their experience is not befitting of.

PAYE vs. Umbrella Schemes

How much a supply teacher earns is also dependant on tax. Another important thing to consider when looking at supply teacher pay is whether you are paid under PAYE or an Umbrella scheme. There have been some changes in recent years leading to confusion over which is more beneficial to the supply worker. It is here that the question ‘how much do supply teachers earn’ becomes a little less straight-forward.

The Guardian have reported that supply teachers, forced to sign up to umbrella companies as opposed to the traditional PAYE schemes, are losing out on pay as well as being tricked in to paying extra fees. The Guardian’s story on umbrella companies paints a bleak picture of exploitation and corruption. However, the problem at hand is in fact far less simple. Let’s address some of the misconceptions around Umbrella schemes.

It appears the problem with Umbrella company schemes, is new, although the scheme itself is not. In fact, historically, supply teachers actually earned more under umbrella companies. This was because they could claim expenses on travel and subsistence and had a dispensation from HMRC taxation. Recruitment agencies in the past had seen umbrella schemes as a way of ensuring parity of pay for supply staff, to comply with the Agency Worker Regulations (AWR). The fact is, supply staff earned more under umbrella companies than they did when working under PAYE but that may no longer be the case, so what has changed?

A collection of multi-coloured umbrellas against a background of blue sky.

Travel Expenses

With HMRC’s ‘supervision, direction and control’ guidance (SDC) coming in to play in April 2016, the game has completely changed. The SDC rules now mean that supply staff can no longer claim on travel expenses under umbrella schemes. This was a hugely important aspect of supply teaching with many supply workers often having to travel increasing distances to fill much-needed teaching roles across the country. Without the option of travel expense claims, supply teachers are less likely to travel further to schools that need short-notice teachers if it means paying out of their own pocket.

In fact, since the Supervision, Direction and Control (SDC) measures were brought in by HMRC and applied in 2016, there has been no benefit to a UK supply teacher working under an umbrella company; the supply teacher now loses money and is therefore far better off being paid as a PAYE worker. (Although, overseas teachers may still benefit from reclaiming of flights and other expenses under an Umbrella scheme). So what does this all mean for supply teacher’s pay?

Agency and School Negotiation

As it is today, teachers have to choose and contract within what is the most highly-competitive agency market education has ever seen because these agencies place teachers into teacher-short, cash-strapped schools. Furthermore, over the last ten years, with the rise of academies and bursars, schools have been very keen to negotiate heavily on supply charge rates, the aim being to push prices down to rock bottom. This has had an adverse effect with sector intelligence showing that agency margins have declined by 20% in the last decade, and day charge rates are flat in real terms. This drop indicates salary stagnation and in some cases deflation.

After discussing this with groups of supply staff and agency consultants, I’ve seen the flip side to agency competition and the school negotiating wars. It has had an immensely adverse effect on both supply teachers’ pay per hour and the perception of supply teachers within a school. Many schools have adopted a ‘you get what you pay for’ mentality, with some schools unfortunately viewing supply teachers as a ‘necessary evil’. Would a school be so harsh on the salary requests of a permanent teacher they needed, when it was roughly in line with scale? We would hope not.

A calculator and a page of graphs and numbers.

The Future

So what do these changes mean in the long run? Unfortunately, for the agency, the SDC changes will have a huge effect on their gross margin, reducing such by around £15-£20 per day, per teacher. As the agency will not want to absorb the reduction for too long, the cost will eventually be passed on to the schools, where they will see supply costs will rise by around 15-20%. It may also suppress supply teacher’s pay further as the agency sees schools push back. The result could be that supply teachers lose work and instead there is a huge rise in teaching assistants taking front desk for entire lessons, school days and termly placements, as schools look for the cheaper options, meaning that standards will consequently suffer.

Schools have had their NIC subsidies cut; pension contributions put up, and many will lose 8% or more, in real terms, over the next funding period. Meanwhile, supply teachers may be pressured to work for less, making the question of ‘how much do supply teachers earn?’ a difficult one. Through no fault of the teacher, teaching assistant, or the cash-strapped school, the supply and demand pressures could be building towards a perfect recruitment storm. It looks like schools, supply teachers and agencies are in for a rough ride!

Supply teachers now face a difficult job when it comes to establishing their position in schools and in the classroom. Supply teachers fill a vital role in a school’s workforce and in driving good outcomes for children. It is important that they are respected and treated as a school member, the same applies for TAs, who should not be exploited as cheap cover for a teaching role, which is often the case. They cannot be dismissed simply for choosing a flexible employment role, instead of a traditional, permanent teaching post.

Need some supply teaching advice? Read our Supply Teacher’s Survival Guide.


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  1. As a supply teacher I understand that agencies need to cover costs and make a profit. I also see that schools, on the whole, don’t respect or support supply staff, even when we know we are the best teacher a class has had.It is just damaging that so many agencies lie to us about the pay rates, or options, be honest and a solution can be found. The problem with the schools is more inherent and systemic, as they value cost over quality at every stage, which in itself is a false-economy of immense scale. Unless they find a fair value way to contract supply staff and support their needs, or at least have a relationship with their recruiters where they don’t think they other is always trying it on, it will only get worse. The distrust and lack of knowledge on both sides is a great cause for concern.