It’s 7am on Monday morning and you arrive at work to find one of your staff has hurt his back and will be off for the rest of the week. What does this mean? Arranging supply cover.

From my time as a headteacher and as the Chief Executive of the NCTL, I know just how difficult education recruitment can be. Put a group of heads round a table and ask them about supply agencies and you will hear their frustration about outrageous charges, poor quality teachers or TAs, and a tortuous process that involves numerous phone calls to agents who seem to be more motivated by hitting their monthly targets than they are in putting good staff into schools.

From my time as a headteacher and as the Chief Executive of the NCTL, I know just how difficult education recruitment can be.

I’m advising a technology company, Zen Educate, that I am convinced fixes a market that is broken for both schools and teachers.

Zen Educate puts real emphasis on recruiting the best candidates, with interviews conducted by experienced teachers. Candidates are put through a rigorous process that explores their previous experience, their values, their skills, their behaviour management and, of course, safeguarding.

When I was a headteacher I always hated the ordeal of negotiating with agency consultants. Headteachers did not come into the profession to haggle with agents, they hate doing it and in my experience, whatever the outcome, the process left me with a bitter taste.

With school budgets as tight they are, the fees being charged by education recruitment agencies are outrageously high compared to any other industry. They usually take a commission of £50 per day, and they will often try to demand anywhere between 15–30% of the first year’s salary when a school wants to take on a supply teacher permanently. Instead of these completely unjustified fees, Zen Educate is completely transparent with schools, with a daily margin of £20 per day and far lower recruitment fees that will save the average primary school £15,000 per year. This means schools’ money will be spent where it should be — on the pupils — while candidate quality also improves as Zen Educate’s lower margins means they pay supply staff more than traditional agencies do.

Zen Educate is completely transparent with schools, with a daily margin of £20 per day and far lower recruitment fees that will save the average primary school £15,000 per year

Using Zen Educate, you can browse for free through the profiles of teachers and teaching assistants online and view their CVs. You get a choice of who comes to your school, you can book them for supply with one click and, if required, you can get telephone support from the team.

With Zen Educate, just a couple of minutes after getting a phone call reporting an absence, you can select and book the teacher that you need. I am delighted that over 250+ schools in London are already using Zen Educate and I believe that many more should take advantage of this outstanding new service.


Charlie Taylor is an advisor at Zen Educate. Ready to give it a go? Find out more about Zen Educate for schools and teachers