Our popular Meet the client series shines the spotlight on the companies we support with legal services. This month, we talk to Becca Morgan, owner and MD of Principal Teachers, the leading supply teaching agency in the north of England. Becca shares the inspiring story of how she started and has grown her people-centred agency.
Name and job title
Becca Morgan, Owner and Managing Director of Principal Teachers
What is it your company does?
Principal Teachers is the largest provider of supply teachers in the north of England. We are an independently owned, specialist provider of education staffing and consultancy services to schools and academy trusts across Yorkshire and the North-East.
We have earned a reputation for delivering outstanding service that is friendly and ethical. Our business success is founded on the long-lasting sustainable relationships that we have built with our clients and candidates. It also helps that I am a teacher!
An important part of what we do is PT Hub, our alternative education provision. We work closely with local schools and North Yorkshire County Council to offer a specialist service, based on the Thrive approach, for disengaged primary and secondary aged pupils.
The Thrive approach draws on insights from recent advances in neuroscience, attachment theory and child development to provide a powerful way of working with children and young people that supports optimal social and emotional development. We work in a targeted way with children and young people who may have struggled with difficult life events to help them re-engage with life and learning.
How long have you been in business and how has your business grown?
We have now been established for 20 years. I started the company with a £1000 Prince's Trust loan from my box room at home. I bought a phone and a PC, and started teaching as the agency’s first supply teacher. Soon I began drumming up business in local schools and encouraging other supply teachers to join me.
We now turn over in excess of £1 million and are the largest supply agency in the north of England, employing over 250 teachers and teaching assistants. We launched our PT Hub a year ago to support disengaged primary and secondary aged pupils.
What inspired you to start/join your business?
I have always had entrepreneurial aspirations. As a child, our family was very short of money and I decided that I was going to do something to improve our lives. At the age of 7, I started my first venture with a jumble sale outside my house. I went on to run many small businesses including: selling homemade chutney, a cleaning company and running a childcare business.
My husband and I had five children between us. When they were small, we were very busy and I needed a career that fitted in with my parenting responsibilities. As a qualified teacher, I decided that supply work fitted best with our family dynamic. I worked as a supply teacher for a few years in schools across North Yorkshire, Middlesbrough and Redcar - often breastfeeding a baby before I left for work and again when I returned.
I began to notice that there was no structure to the expectations of the agency I was working for and very little value seemed to be placed on the work that I was doing. I decided that I could do it better! I started Principal Teachers and formed a very tight code of practice, so that our teachers knew what was expected of them and felt better supported than I had. I ensure that my business is run with integrity and ethics and that our teachers feel valued and are treated like a trusted member of the PT family. They are not a commodity: it’s their hard work and professionalism that has earned us our excellent reputation among schools and other teachers.
What have been the biggest recent challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
The past few years have seen a proliferation of supply teaching agencies. This has left the market more saturated and has resulted in some agencies operating the ‘bums on seats’ business model. Prices are being driven down, but so are standards, in my opinion. No-one can offer a cut-price option without compromising on quality. We aren’t prepared to compromise on quality, given that this could undoubtedly affect child safety.
We have overcome this challenge by sticking firm to our principles and haven’t been tempted to join the price war. Schools understand that we may not be the cheapest, but they can be 100% certain that we go over and above with every aspect of our service.
What are your hopes/goals for the next 1-3 years?
We have just gained exam centre status and are about to receive DfE registration for the Hub. We are pretty much at capacity, but I plan to double the size of the school and in turn, offer more places to students who desperately need them.
What has it been like to work with Harper James?
Working with HJ has been fabulous! Everyone we have worked with has been extremely professional, very quick and has offered excellent service.
How has working with Harper James benefited your business?
As part of our expansion plans for the Hub, we have purchased an additional commercial property. This is the first purchase of this kind I have made, but HJ have held my hand through the process and helped to make it simple and easy to understand.