Lessons for everyone

One year on, we take a look at the results of a bold new approach to recruitment agency supply in schools.

"The idea of addressing recruitment agency supply in Camden was first raised with schools in June 2016. Primarily because of the rise in the number of complaints and disputes relating to introductory fees, safeguarding issues, persistent cold calling and the supply of poor quality personnel across the borough. Cost was also a driver; spend for recruitment supply for teachers and other staff was running at £7m plus per annum across the borough.

Camden’s schools were clear from the outset that, whilst budgetary control was important, it was not to compromise the quality of staff supplied to schools, compliance standards must be robust and supply staff should be treated fairly and with respect. 

The overall aims of the Supply Agency Contract were to deliver recruitment that was:

  • Better – Improving the service that Camden schools receive by identifying and rewarding the agencies that provide good candidates and delivering high levels of service, as well as removing agencies that do not deliver.
  • Cheaper – Achieving a significant reduction in costs; with the savings being retained within the Camden schools system. 
  • Easier – Creating a central solution that would be easier for schools to interface. Reducing the time spent by schools responding to recruitment agencies on sales calls, sourcing agencies and screening speculative CVs.
  • Safeguarded – Ensuring that all staff put forward/supplied would be 100% compliant – eligible to work in the UK, ID checked, fully referenced, suitably qualified (QTS registration for teachers), DBS and Children’s Barred List checked. In addition, break the cycle of poor performers moving around the borough from school-to-school.
  • Engaged – Working with a partner organisation that builds credibility with key decision makers within schools through meaningful and visible communication and engagement.
  • Fairer – Securing rates and working conditions for agency staff which were fairer to them. 

Procurement of Supply Agency Contract

Because Camden Learning is a schools' owned company, the procurement process for the Supply Agency Contract was schools-led. In going through the procurement exercise the school representatives were attracted to the 'neutral vend' approach as it was felt that this model would facilitate a stronger partnership relationship with the agencies and, therefore, provide a higher quality staff.  GRI (de Poel) was the successful bidder to be Camden Learning’s managed service provider because:-

  • The GRI approach allowed schools to have the option to retain direct relationships with approved agencies;
  • GRI technology enabled compliance management and comprehensive MI – visibility and control;
  • Schools were attracted to the vendor neutral model, combining the benefits of a master vendor and PSL arrangements;
  • Proven experience in management of temporary supply in the education arena; and 
  • Enabled schools to have choice

The due diligence exercise revealed a fragmented market with around 70 agencies providing staff to Camden’s 60 schools. This resulted in a significant amount of administration and negotiation by individual schools and a variation in the quality of service, price, and terms of business experienced across Camden’s schools. As part of the GRI approach a panel of around 35 supplying agencies was established, an appropriate size to provide a strong supply of candidates.

Advantages for schools

  • One fixed, reduced charge rate for providing supply teachers (and similarly for other key roles), which immediately reduces the cost to schools and removes the need to negotiate rates each time. 
  • A central system where schools could put in one request to access all 35 agencies without having to make multiple calls; with the option for schools to go straight to their favoured agency (or agencies) on the panel in the knowledge that rates are fixed.
  • No charge to the school after twelve weeks if the agency-supplied temporary worker becomes a permanent member of staff. 
  • The panel is constantly monitored. Under-performing agencies can, and have, been removed from the panel.
  • The central system also provides an increased visibility of agency spend across a range of metrics. 
  • Each school receives one consolidated invoice, regardless of the number of agencies that provided staff during that week, reducing administration time and cost. 
  • Agencies are systematically audited to ensure that all compliance requirements are met, more peace of mind on safeguarding previously not built into the system.
  • Each Camden school has a GRI schools contact who understands the account and is in regular contact to deliver value add expertise and support.

Advantages for supply workers and other candidates

  • They receive fair and consistent rates of pay, which are higher than most candidates currently receive
  • The comfort that their agency has access to all 60 Camden schools vacancies, meaning that there should be consistent work
  • The assurance that their agency has been audited by GRI in order to ensure that all requirements are met and that salary, holiday pay, Agency Worker Regulations, etc. are applied correctly

The Results so far

The Camden Learning Agency Supply Contract panel went live for the new academic year in September 2017.  For the first year of its operation, the results have been impressive 

  • From a standing start over 15k days of bookings have been fulfilled in the academic year 
  • Saving on spend is running at over 14% - on the projected target for the project 
  • Different patterns of spend and savings between occupational groups and school phases have been achieved

The recruitment panel is still evolving and developing but it is proving to be a resilient and a positive force for schools on the recruitment supply market in Camden.  Merely by existing, there is anecdotal and real evidence to suggest that non-panel agencies have to adjust their pricing model in Camden.

We will continue to work in the new school year with our schools and GRI to provide value and quality candidates for the schools community."

Kevin Collins, Head of Business Operations, Camden Learning


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