EXCLUSIVERevealed: Jet-set lifestyle of fat cat recruitment boss as his firm rakes in £4.5million a year cashing in on the UK's teacher shortage crisis – 'by filling classrooms with unqualified staff'

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The acute shortage of teachers affecting schools means big money for those companies who specialise in trying to fill the record number of vacancies, MailOnline can reveal.

And some bosses, like Steven Pendergast and his wife Charlotte, enjoy flaunting the luxury lifestyle of holidays and VIP events funded by their success.

Mr Pendergast’s firm, Connex Education Partnership, is only one of many companies making millions out of the classroom crisis.

As MailOnline revealed last week, experienced but demoralised teachers are leaving the UK in droves to seek a better life in exotic locations such as Dubai, Australia and the Far East.

And in some cases their empty posts are being filled – at least temporarily – by unqualified supply teaches or ‘cover supervisors’ provided by firms such as Connex.

The company describes itself on its website as ‘proud of our reputation’ for ‘providing schools, specialist units and early years settings with whole-school recruitment and training solutions’.

Steven Pendergast - pictured with his wife Charlotte - is a fat cat supply teaching boss who is making millions of pounds out of the UK's teaching shortage crisis

Steven Pendergast – pictured with his wife Charlotte – is a fat cat supply teaching boss who is making millions of pounds out of the UK’s teaching shortage crisis

Mr Pendergast, whose social media photos shows him enjoying a number of holidays, including a lavish trip to Dubai, runs Connex Education Partnership

Mr Pendergast, whose social media photos shows him enjoying a number of holidays, including a lavish trip to Dubai, runs Connex Education Partnership

Mr Pendergast - pictured here enjoying business class flights - has seen his profits soar to £4.5million in recent years supplying teachers to the UK's struggling classrooms

Mr Pendergast – pictured here enjoying business class flights – has seen his profits soar to £4.5million in recent years supplying teachers to the UK’s struggling classrooms 

It has proved a lucrative business for Mr Pendergast who owns at least 75 per cent of Connex and its parent company Bluestones Investment Group Ltd, based in Chester, according to documents filed at Companies House.

Not only have Bluestones’ profits leapt to £4.5m in the most recent year, dividends paid to shareholders have comfortably exceeded £5 million over the last two years put together, according to the most recent accounts.

Mr Pendergast on a holiday in Tenerife

Mr Pendergast on a holiday in Tenerife

This month Connex advertised six positions for unqualified teachers across the north-west of England and in the East Midlands, earning up to £550 for a five-day week.

One of its adverts appeared to lay bare the extent of the teacher-shortage problem, claiming Connex was ‘currently working very closely with a great school based in Beeston, who are seeking regular support from unqualified teachers.’

It described the school as ‘very successful … with a great reputation surrounding leadership and the behaviour of pupils’.

Connex, of which Mr Pendergast is the majority shareholder, said ‘many’ of the temporary staff it placed with the school later become permanent members of staff or are offered full-year placements.

Two of the adverts, for unqualified supply teachers at Key Stage 3 and 4 in Buxton and Glossop, state the applicant can be as young as 21 – meaning they would potentially be just five years older than their students.

Mr Pendergast is listed as being director of 28 companies, 27 of which have the same address

Mr Pendergast is listed as being director of 28 companies, 27 of which have the same address

Around the same time, Mr Pendergast posted an image of himself with Roberto Mancini, the former Manchester City boss

Companies House figures show Bluestones made pre-tax profits of just over £4 million in 2021, which climbed to just under £4.5 million the following year.

The company itself has a handful of directors including Mr Pendergast and his wife Charlotte.

But Companies House documents show Mr Pendergast, 42, is the single person with majority control of the business, taking over from his wife, 43, in 2016.

The figures show that the company paid out around £2.9 million in dividends to shareholders in the year ending 2022, up from £2.5 million the previous year. 

His social media posts include pictures of himself at a Manchester United Player of the Year award ceremony, including one alongside celebrity supporter and former Countdown and Strictly Star, Rachel Riley, which he captioned: ‘Fit!’

Another, however, showed him posing with Roberto Mancini, the former manager of at cross-city rivals Manchester City.

And Mr Pendergast was front and centre of the lavish Bluestones Investment Group awards ceremony at Chester Racecourse in 2022, while previous posts show he enjoyed a family holiday in the US and was excited having bought a new jet ski.

He also helped open a steakhouse in his name in Warrington in September 2023, for which he is a director.

A further glimpse into his family’s lifestyle is offered by his wife, who regularly posts images of herself in glamorous locations, including Dubai.

Other images show a family holiday to Florida, their holiday home abroad, and the pair enjoying business class flights.

Mr Pendergast is listed as being director of 28 companies, 27 of which are registered to the same address.

There is no suggestion Mr Pendergast, Connex or Bluestones have broken the law.

But the publicly available figures signal the huge amounts of money that can be made out of Britain’s classroom crisis, where the number and rate of teacher vacancies is at its highest level since 2010, when comparable records begin.

Mr Pendergast on a family holiday to Universal Studios in Florida. His firm has paid out around £5million in shareholder dividends in the past two years 

Mr Pendergast took his family to Universal Studios in Florida
He also posted this picture on social media of the family at Sea World

Mr Pendergast took his family to Universal Studios in Florida. He also posted this picture on social media of the family at Sea World

A social media post on Mrs Pendergast's Facebook page in 2020 announced they were off to sign for their second home which was a nice holiday home abroad

A social media post on Mrs Pendergast’s Facebook page in 2020 announced they were off to sign for their second home which was a nice holiday home abroad

The family have enjoyed the trappings of his success and posted this photo online of a swimming pool during one of their trips

The family have enjoyed the trappings of his success and posted this photo online of a swimming pool during one of their trips

Mr Pendergast (right) wearing a matching pink two-piece on a recent break

Mr Pendergast (right) wearing a matching pink two-piece on a recent break

Vacancies have more than doubled in the past three years, to 2,800 in November 2023, or six empty posts per 1,000 teachers in service.

Almost a third of those teachers who qualified five years ago have left the profession.

In many deprived areas, or schools which have a bad reputation, the number of vacancies is disproportionately higher than average.

Often posts are filled temporarily by private recruitment agencies, with the number almost doubling in three years to 3,400 in 2023.

While headhunting companies make huge profits and can pay their consultants salaries of up to £100,000 a year, the schools are so desperate to attract staff that for some roles they demand no teaching experience whatsoever, stipulating only a DBS check, the right to work in the UK and two references.

While state schools legally require teachers to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), that is not the case with academy or independent schools.

But state schools do take on many ‘cover supervisors’ who do not hold QTS, but will nonetheless be in charge of classrooms.

Last week, teachers told us how the combination of the cost of living, workload, challenging behaviour from children and constant stress made them quit the job in the UK.

A senior state school secondary teacher with 15 years’ experience who recently moved to a job in a private school in the Far East said: ‘The pandemic changed things for many parents and children and you’ve ended up with some children who just aren’t socialised because they missed out on key stages of learning to get along with their peers.

‘Their development is impaired. ‘In some cases you’ve also got parents who expect teachers to take on some of the roles which rightly should be theirs. And if you don’t do it, who else is going to?’

Former teacher Ruth Harron, 44, from Belfast, worked in a school in the UAE between 2008 and 2010, then set up her own business, recruiting others, called Teachers in UAE.

‘Teachers in the UK aren’t allowed to say boo to a goose when they are faced with challenging behaviour,’ she said.

‘But in the UAE, you’re backed up by colleagues if you’re faced with difficult classroom management situations – and it just doesn’t happen as often.

‘Teachers are held in some esteem in the UAE, and they’re treated well.

‘There’s extra pay if you organise after-school activities and you’re encouraged to do your planning work during gaps in the day when the children learn Arabic and Islamic studies, so you don’t have much work to take home.’

Among others extoling the virtues of working in Dubai is primary teacher and YouTuber Thomas Blakemore, 27.

He told his 48k subscribers how his main reason for leaving the UK was for a better lifestyle, but also cited politics and parents.

British teachers are quitting their jobs in droves in search of the good life abroad, enjoying less stress, more money and a better lifestyle. Pictured: Miss K Sullivan is one of the thousands ditching the UK

British teachers are quitting their jobs in droves in search of the good life abroad, enjoying less stress, more money and a better lifestyle. Pictured: Miss K Sullivan is one of the thousands ditching the UK

Teaching vacancies are at a record high and recruitment firms are cashing in on the shortage. Pictured: British teacher Laila Ahadpour posts scenic shots of herself in Dubai on Instagram under the handle Diary of a Dubai Teacher

Teaching vacancies are at a record high and recruitment firms are cashing in on the shortage. Pictured: British teacher Laila Ahadpour posts scenic shots of herself in Dubai on Instagram under the handle Diary of a Dubai Teacher

Among others extoling the virtues of working in Dubai is primary teacher and YouTuber Thomas Blakemore, 27

Among others extoling the virtues of working in Dubai is primary teacher and YouTuber Thomas Blakemore, 27

Some parents wanted him to ‘be a parent, rather than a teacher and that’s not my job.’

He also told of the frustrations of applying for education, health and care plan for three children in his class only to have two of them rejected ‘multiple times,’ despite gathering huge amounts of evidence.

British teacher Laila Ahadpour posts scenic shots of herself in Dubai on Instagram under the handle Diary of a Dubai Teacher. She’s been teaching Foundation Stage 2 children there aged between four and five for the last six years.

As well as showing off the work of her class, she has also run an online course for her 3,700 followers to help them make the transition to Dubai.

Scottish ex-pat ‘Miss K’ Sullivan posts frequently on Instagram showing her 9,000 followers glimpses of her life, from the classroom to the gym and in the pool.

Two years ago, she vented at trolls who commented on her page suggesting teaching was an easy life and one said: ‘aren’t you just babysitting?’

When she posted some of their comments, the clip went viral, and she won support from many other teachers around the world.

Francesca Mancilla has over 13 years’ experience in the UK and Dubai and her social media shows her enjoying life to the full in the Middle East. She is now back in the UK working as an advisory teacher in West Sussex.

Sadie Landau is in her 11th year of teaching and posts on Instagram under the handle London Primary Teacher, but she’s also worked in Qatar and now Dubai, where her social media shows her exploring the desert by bicycle and swimming in the Gulf against the stunning Dubai backdrop.

Connex did not reply to requests for a comment.