More than £3million was spent by the areas’s schools on temporary agency staffing cover in the last academic year.
Figures obtained under a freedom of information request show the primary and secondary schools in the Derbyshire area paid out £3,213,186 over 2012/13 – equivalent to nearly 150 full-time, newly qualified teachers.
This figure does not include foundation schools or academies.
Top spenders, Alfreton Grange Arts College, forked out £223,999 over the year, with £133,734 going to one agency alone.
Acting head, Christine Hill, who took over from suspended head, Gail Giles, at the start of the new academic year, said: “Unfortunately we have had to cover the long-term absence of five members of our teaching staff. This has meant the cost of providing supply teachers has been higher than usual as we have to ensure that our pupils’ education is not disrupted.
“We now have enough staff in place to ensure we can always cover lessons if a teacher goes off sick so this cost will be significantly reduced in the future. It also means that our children will benefit from continuity of teaching.”
But Don Spencer, headteacher at Heritage high school in Clowne – which spent over £100,000 – said his school’s figure includes the amount paid to cover supervisors – full time members of staff who cover all teaching absences in the school.
He said: “The figure could include supply staff or cover supervisors. We use some of the supply budget for our own staff.
“One of the reasons we use cover supervisors is so the children have access to our staff. They don’t have someone coming from outside. But they only cover short-term absence. For long-term absence such as pregnancy, we would bring in specialist supply teachers.
He added: “Cover supervisors aren’t just used for absence, they are for covering teachers on continual professional development, we have local authority courses, and staff out on off site activities. We use them, rather than bringing in supply teachers through agencies at ridiculous cost.
“I think it is value for money. If I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. Many schools in the county will be in the same situation.”
Mr Spencer refused to say how much cover supervisors are being paid at the school. But Daley Hebberd, director of teaching staffing agency, Teacher Active, said they can command up to £20,000 a year, just shy of the £21,500 paid to newly qualified teachers – despite not needing any formal qualifications.
“Cover supervisors are modern day supply teachers,” he said. “It is about saving money.”
Deborah Turner, county division secretary for the National Union of Teachers, slammed the use of unqualified cover supervisors.
She said: “The NUT firmly believes that whenever a teacher is absent - for whatever reason - they should be replaced by a fully qualified supply teacher paid on the appropriate pay scale.”
She added: “There are many reasons for a school to employ supply staff many of which are factored into a school’s budget at the beginning of the academic year.
“Supply costs should not automatically be correlated to ill-health absence. For instance this expenditure may be due to staff training, short-term employment opportunities due to targeted pupil interventions, cover necessitated by staffing changes or by a temporary inability to fill a vacant position with a suitably experienced and/or qualified individual.”
Derbyshire County Council declined to comment on whether the figure was value for money and said it is up to the individual schools to spend their own budget.
A spokesperson said: “Schools decide if they need supply staff and usually use a specialist agency. The cost comes from their own budgets. Typically supply teachers are used when teaching staff are off sick for more than a day or two.”