FAO Principals of All Grant-aided Schools and other NISTR Users

29th March 2023

Safe sourcing of Supply Teachers and detrimental impact of retrospective bookings on NISTR.

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The Department of Education, employing authorities and sectoral support bodies write to highlight the risks associated with sourcing teachers outside of NISTR, the impact of untimely creation of bookings and the important role of all users.

The Department of Education, employing authorities and sectoral support bodies write to highlight the risks associated with sourcing teachers outside of NISTR, the impact of untimely creation of bookings and the important role of all users.

While recognising that there are workforce supply issues in some subject areas, the new NISTR system is now working effectively and provides additional functionality in the form of a short notice supply message board for urgent cover needs. On a monthly basis, on average 63,000 teaching days are covered through NISTR engagement with more than 5,000 teachers gaining employment and providing much needed supply to over 1,100 grant-aided schools and EA services.

The NISTR solution will not permit retrospective bookings to be made after the first day of engagement has passed. This is vital to protect the integrity of the system, ensuring that data on teacher availability is up-to-date and thereby reducing school workloads associated with sourcing cover and ensuring that teachers already engaged do not receive multiple phone calls.

School leaders and other cover managers are reporting their frustration about contacting teachers showing as available who are already engaged in another school or are not available to work for another reason.

  • “One supply teacher was on holiday abroad.”
  • “I just wish other schools would use it properly.”
  • “I phoned 15 subs yesterday evening all showing available on NISTR and not one available. Indeed, three said they are in posts until end of June. I really am frustrated. One sub said she doesn't get booked until the end of the month.” 

All users must play their part to ensure that behaviour does not negatively impact on others:

  • If a teacher is unwilling/unable to work, then their profile must be updated to set that day(s) to ‘unavailable’.
  • If a school makes an offer to a teacher, then the booking should be made in NISTR as quickly as possible on the same day to allow the teacher to accept the booking which will update their availability to benefit other users.

NISTR is the only recognised and safe mechanism for sourcing, contacting and engaging supply teachers. All grant-aided schools (including Nursery Schools) and employing authorities must ensure that a teacher is registered on NISTR before that teacher is engaged by a school. Engagement outside of NISTR is in breach of safeguarding guidelines.

NISTR offers protection to pupils, schools and employers by ensuring that all supply teachers are vetted (through AccessNI check) and deemed as suitable to work with children as well as being appropriately qualified and registered to work in schools. In addition to vetting checks, the application process to join NISTR also includes checks that teachers are considered ‘eligible to teach’, satisfy relevant health requirements and are registered with the GTCNI.

Booking a live teacher on NISTR in advance of engagement is the only means by which schools can be assured the teacher has satisfied the pre-employment requirements and that the teacher can be paid in a timely manner for the service.

Schools must fully consider the significant risks of using non-compliant sourcing methods outside of NISTR such as internally held ‘lists’ of supply teachers or requests through social media sites. Key risks include:

  • Safeguarding - the teacher may have no recent vetting check, could be on an unsuitable persons list or have a current disclosure under investigation.
  • Qualifications and skills – the teacher may be unqualified and therefore cannot legally be engaged in a school for any period or lack relevant experience or skills.
  • Legal challenge – from other teachers in respect of equality of employment opportunities (particularly schools ‘advertising’ through closed groups).
  • Lack of compliance with relevant guidance and regulations including GDPR.

NISTR bookings should be immediate at point of verbal agreement (if contact is made off-system and not generated automatically through accepted offer on-system). It is the responsibility of the school, as the employer, to create the booking which serves as the offer of engagement. When the teacher accepts the offer, this prevents them from showing in searches when they are no longer available.

Repeated requests for retrospective bookings without a valid reason may be reported to the relevant employing authority and further action, including administrative charges, may be considered. This is designed to assist all school users.


Should you encounter any difficulties using the NISTR system please report any issues by emailing [email protected] or telephoning 028 9056 6256. We are here and happy to help.

Last updated: 29/03/2023