More than £250 million has been spent on supply teachers in schools across Wales since 2016, new figures have revealed.
Welsh Conservatives said that while supply teachers are a necessity now more than ever, the amount of taxpayer money spent is extremely concerning.
Figures obtained by the party shows £252,913,528 has been spent on supply staff across Wales from 2016 until 2021.
All local authorities apart from Carmarthenshire, City of Swansea, Conwy, Gwynedd, Neath Port Talbot and Pembrokeshire replied to the Freedom of Information request.
Cardiff accounts for around £57 million of spending, followed by Caerphilly at around £32m.
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Education, Laura Anne Jones MS, said:
“There is no doubt that supply teachers have been a major lifeline for schools across Wales as they’ve had to deal with staff shortages due to illness and self-isolation.
“However, the sums involved are absolutely eyewatering and I am sure taxpayers will question this mammoth amount of public money.
“It appears councils are becoming over-reliant on the overused and hugely expensive supply teacher system, and Labour ministers must do more to help our schools.
“They need work to encourage more people into teaching and ministers can do that by listening to our calls to set targets to deliver 5,000 teachers across Wales in the next five years.
“This Labour government should explore refunding tuition fees for those who go on to work as teachers for at least five years in Welsh schools and establish a Welsh Education Advisory Service to improve access to employment and establish more pathways into the teaching profession.”
News of the £250m spent on supply teachers came as Laura Anne Jones MS called on the education minister to make an urgent statement on how ready schools are for the roll-out of the new curriculum in the Senedd this week (Oct 12).
She told the Senedd: “Alongside the obvious impact the pandemic has had, many schools are currently really struggling with staff absences and supply teachers are difficult to source at the moment due to the amount of teachers self-isolating and affected with covid themselves.
“School meetings have been dominated by discussions on covid, rather than the implementation of this new curriculum. Headteachers and their teams are overstretched and need additional support so I’d be grateful if the minister could come to the chamber to address these issues.”