SUPPLY teachers in Reading cost taxpayers £1.66m a year, according to the latest figures

Most of this, £1.34m, was spent on agency supply teachers, while £318,000 was spent on supply teachers employed directly by schools on a casual basis.

The spending data for 2016/17 was released in response to a recent freedom of information request.

Reading Girls’ School spent the most on supply teachers, costing taxpayers £337,000 for 487 pupils, which is around £692 per girl.

For the 10,738 primary schoolchildren, supply teachers costed £1.08m, around £100 per child. For the 1,372 secondary school pupils, the cost was £444,000, around £324 per pupil.

Schools rely on supply teachers to cover teacher sickness. Some supply teachers are employed directly by the school, but most tend to go through an agency, which costs more as the agency has to be paid as well.

Ashley Pearce, lead councillor for education, said: “Unfortunately, teachers’ salaries have suffered under successive governments since 2010 which makes it particularly difficult to attract permanent new teaching staff in areas like Reading where the cost of housing is so high.

“Cuts to school budgets have also led to increased workloads for teachers who in turn have had to cope with high levels of stress which has resulted in long-term sickness rates and more teachers choosing to leave the profession.

“Depending on supply teachers or agency staff is not a long term solution to this problem which is why increased government investment in education is essential to help schools to recruit and retain high-quality permanent teaching staff.”

According to the Department for Education figures, 6,510 days were lost to teacher absence in Reading in 2017.

Andrew Morris, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Supply agencies cream off millions of pounds every year from schools, charging them substantial fees while paying supply teachers appallingly.

“The Department for Education is actively supporting agencies when it could be adopting a Northern Ireland model, where a government-backed scheme puts schools and supply teachers in direct contact, saving schools money and paying teachers more.”

Teachers working for supply agencies ‘have no employment protection’ and cannot join the Teachers’ Pension Scheme, according to the NEU.

The NEU website states: “Their placement can be terminated, often on 24 hours’ notice, with no right of challenge or redress.

“Secondly, not being employees, they have no rights of equal treatment as to terms and conditions in comparison with their colleagues in the workplace, unless they have been employed by the same employer for 12 weeks.”