Focus on supply teachers

Supply teachers hired through an agency cost secondary schools considerably more than the teachers they employ directly. The total salary costs of an employed teacher in the common salary scale of grade 12 is €58 per hour. The average hourly fee for a supply teacher in the same scale and grade is €113 (including VAT). The Netherlands Court of Audit today presents a unique insight into supply teacher fees based on data from 84% of all secondary schools.

Average hourly rate of supply teachers is higher due to reserves, agency margin and VAT

Figuur Focus op inhuurdocenten

The difference is due chiefly to reserves, VAT and the agency’s margin. Agencies often form reserves to pay supply teachers during school holidays, when they cannot invoice the schools. They also charge VAT at 21%. Schools cannot offset the VAT because education is exempt from VAT. External agencies also apply a margin of between 15% and 46% to cover their overhead costs and profit.

Supply teacher fees vary widely

On average, secondary schools pay €95 per hour to hire a temporary staff member or supply teacher from an external agency. A self-employed teacher costs €77 per hour on average. Hourly fees vary widely, ranging from €25 to as much as €180.

Big differences in conditions to take on teachers

Not only rates can vary widely, so can general conditions. An agency is allowed by law to demand ‘reasonable payment’ if a school wishes to employ a supply teacher it has provided. What an agency considers to be reasonable differs significantly. Many agencies demand 15% to 38% of the hourly fee of the contracted hours still outstanding; a few demand a fixed fee, sometimes as high as €45,000.

Proportion of temporary staff to employed staff has doubled

Schools are making increased use of supply teachers. In the past 10 years, the proportion of school staff not employed directly has doubled to 4.4% of total staff costs. About half are teachers, the remainder are IT specialists, teaching assistants and similar support staff. 

For the schools, supply teachers are a solution to the teacher shortage and absenteeism. For the teachers, an agency can offer greater independence and the freedom to move from one schools to another. Financial security is also given as a reason to prefer working through an agency. With the Ministry of Education funding schools more often on an incidental basis, schools cannot always offer a permanent contract. Agencies can.

Secondary schools rarely negotiate fees

In principle, fees and conditions are agreed through negotiation between an agency and the school board. The Court found, however, that school boards rarely negotiate but accept the fees proposed by the agency. Having a teacher in front of a class is more important to them than the cost.

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