Supply teaching – a beginner’s guide

Teacher at work

Supply teaching is becoming a more desirable choice for many teachers. From new teachers wanting to get on the ladder and gain some experience, to experienced teachers looking for a better work/life balance, and those simply looking for a way to earn some extra money, supply teaching is proving the perfect choice for many.

It has long been recognised that supply teachers are a natural port of call for schools in a crisis. Maternity cover, sick leave and staff training all impact on the availability of permanent teachers within a school. For many supply teachers there will always be work. The most important thing is to build up a good reputation.

There are many advantages, and some disadvantages, of becoming a supply teacher. Here are the main points you will need to consider before taking the leap. Importantly, the more flexible you are over location, age groups, subjects and type of schools, the more work you will get.

The advantages of supply teaching

• Working in a variety of schools, you’ll pick up some great ideas that you might not have if you were in a permanent position in one school. Supply teaching in different schools is great for personal development and employment prospects.
• Flexibility – you’ll be able to choose when you work, and go away on holiday when you wish.
• You’ll be less involved in planning, target-setting and assessments, leaving you to get on with the job you love – teaching.
• You’ll get to meet a wide range of people, from heads and teachers through to pupils. It’s a great opportunity for networking and building a fabulous reputation.
• Supply teaching is a great way to get back in the classroom and refresh your skills if you’ve been out of the industry for a while.
• You’ll gain insight into the type of schools you may like to work in permanently.
• Earn as you learn. Many teachers are able to undertake a part-time Masters degree at the same time as working.
• You choose whether to accept or decline work.

The disadvantages of supply teaching

• Handling money difficulties is probably one of the most common problems that supply teachers face. While work is abundant, there isn’t a problem, but when it’s harder to get a placement it can cause financial insecurity for some. A lack of regular income may also be a problem should you wish to apply for a mortgage.
• Availability of work may be irregular if you are an NQT (newly qualified teacher).
• Short-term placements aren’t for everyone. It can make some feel like they don’t belong.
• Access to continuing professional development and mentoring can be irregular.
• It can be difficult to get to know the children and staff if you are only working in a school for a short time.

What you will need to register with us

To register you will need:

• 2 forms of ID, one of which must be your Passport
• Valid visa (if appropriate)
• Proof of address (bank statement, utility bill from the last 3 months)
• DBS disclosure (some agencies can organise this for you)
• Overseas police check (if appropriate)
• Contact details for 2 referees
• Teaching degree certificate or transcript
• P45 9if you have left a permanent job in the UK)
• GTC number. QTS teachers will be checked against the Teaching Agency Register for proof of qualification and suitability.
• To provide an explanation of gaps in your employment history

Everything you need to know for your first day working as a supply teacher

• Research your school before you arrive. Look at their website and inspection reports from Ofsted.
• Plan your route and leave plenty of time to arrive early.
• Dress smart and comfortably.
• Always take for DBS and ID so the school can verify your identity.
• Always take work and equipment with you. Some schools will have plans they want you to follow, others won’t. Things like board pens and scrap paper are useful and easy to carry.
• Fit in with the school. Don’t introduce your own behaviour strategies, unless you are on a longer term contract. Changing things too much doesn’t usually get the children on your side.
• Be personable, positive, helpful and flexible.
• Use your TA to get to know the class and the routine. Don’t ask the children to help you with the school routine. If the class doesn’t have a TA, ask another teacher.
• Go the extra mile – help with breaks, assemblies and after school clubs. This will help you build a positive and professional relationship with the school, and they will ask for you again.
• Don’t disappear as soon as the bell goes. It doesn’t create a good impression.

Questions to ask on arrival at a new placement

1. Who is your line manager?
2. How do you gain entry to the school each day?
3. What are the timings of the school day, including breaks?
4. What time are you expected to arrive each day?
5. Are you expected to do extra duties, such as lunch duty?
6. Are you expected to attend staff training days, staff meetings and parents’ evenings?
7. Do they have a plan or map of the school?
8. Where is the staffroom, cloakroom, toilet?
9. Is there a seating plan in the classroom?
10. Has work been set for the class?
11. Is there any guidance on marking work?
12. What is the school’s disciplinary policy for disruptive behaviour in the classroom?
13. Do any of the pupils have any medical conditions you should be aware of?
14. What are the arrangements if a child falls ill in class?
15. What are the emergency procedures, in the event of fire?
16. Is there a dress code?
17. Are there any children in your class with special educational needs?
18. Are there any statement pupils?
19. Are there any particular routines, such as lining up outside the classroom before a lesson?
20. Who is the named person for reporting child protection concerns?

Final top tip – don’t be afraid to try something new!

How to make your classroom dyslexia friendly

Dyslexia concept

Approximately one in ten of the population is estimated to have dyslexia. As many as one in five children leave primary school with below the national average levels in reading, writing and mathematics, according to the UK charity Dyslexia Action.

A survey of teachers, carried out by Dyslexia Action, found that as many as 60 per cent of teachers did not feel satisfied that their training had equipped them with sufficient skills to teach those who are struggling to read and write.

The British Dyslexia Association is campaigning to encourage schools to work towards becoming dyslexia-friendly. They recommend a multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning and are encouraging schools to join up to their programme for a Quality Mark Award. You can find the abridged version of their guide to good practice here.

Here are 11 ways you can start making your classroom dyslexia-friendly. With your help, dyslexic children don’t need to be afraid of books.

1. Give directions one step at a time – this helps reduce the processing time and helps to cater to memory deficits.
2. Preview and review – set out what you will be doing for the day to help pupils organise, filter and prioritise information. At the end of the day, review activities to help students remember and categorise what they have learned throughout the day.
3. Warn students when activities are about to change – let children know when an activity is coming to an end and what is expected of them. Try counting down; for example, there’s 5 more minutes of reading time, before we start our maths lesson, 2 more minutes etc.
4. Slow down instructions – make sure students have time to process information. Be clear and explicit when explaining tasks, and assess children in intervals to ensure they have understood what it is you have asked of them.
5. Assume nothing – never assume children understand connected concepts. Teach one concept at a time and draw connections with all new material presented.
6. Provide visuals wherever possible – children with dyslexia will likely have some processing issues. If they miss important details in their note taking, visual outlines will help them to recap and are more likely to secure ideas in the memory.
7. Use numbering instead of bullet points where possible – dyslexic children can easily lose their place.
8. Ensure that you use dyslexia-friendly fonts, such as Comic Sans, Sassoon or Arial. Avoid Time New Roman or other cursive scripts. Use double line spacing on homework sheets or notes.
9. Use a colour background on PowerPoint slides, and use off-white paper for handouts.
10. Teach key vocabulary and provide new vocabulary lists at the start of each new topic. Also explore different spelling techniques to make words more memorable.
11. Set suitable reading tasks for homework. Research resources about how to support reading for dyslexia.

Dedicated reading time should be at the heart of the school day

Children with books

Few can argue against the idea that good literacy skills are the key building block for learning. A recent report in the Telegraph highlights the obvious fact that there is a clear correlation between literacy improvements and the amount of time spent reading. The article, however, also asserts that all too often schools are unable to build dedicated reading time into the school timetable. Many Independent schools manage to factor in time, so why can’t state schools do the same?

Literacy at school does get the attention it deserves, but time dedicated to reading for pleasure is often squeezed out of the academic timetable. According to the Telegraph, “a recent survey of young people found that, overall, just half of six to eight-year-olds, 25 per cent of 12 to 14-year-olds, and 11 per cent of 15 to 17-year-olds, get the opportunity to read for pleasure during the school day.”

The Renaissance study of young people’s reading habits found that primary school pupils across the UK push themselves to read suitably difficult books, but secondary school pupils often do not read books sufficiently challenging enough to develop their reading skills.
As a result, the research found that reading ages are slipping to such an extent that by the time pupils come to sit their GCSEs at 16, they typically have an average reading age of a 13 year old.

This has far reaching effects for pupils in their GCSE exams. With poor reading skills pupils will struggle to understand examination questions. It is clear that dedicated reading in schools from an early age will have huge benefits across a broad range of subjects. Dirk Foch, Managing Director of Renaissance UK, the organisation responsible for carrying out the research, said, “the question now is for policy makers and teachers to develop ways to build more reading time into the school curriculum, particularly in secondary school. If we invest time into this now it will pay dividends for future generations in the long term.”

Book with page folded in heart shape

Here are 5 top tips from the experts on how to get your pupils reading more:

1. Talk to parents to find out what support they need to encourage them to help their children to read at home.
2. Keep up to date with children’s literature. There is a great book out there for everyone. See if your school is able to appoint/nominate a literature specialist to advise on introducing a wider range of poets’ and writers’ works into the school.
3. Encourage children to read every day. Give children 15 minutes a day to read in school, and get reading buddies in the classroom to support reluctant readers.
4. Turn your school into a book-loving place. Start by setting up book clubs to include all of the teachers and all of the children.
5. Celebrate reading achievements in special book-themed school assemblies.

Could digital pop-up books be reinvigorating an interest in reading?

Augmented reality children’s books are growing in popularity, and have been since the Pokemon Go augmented reality game craze. With children increasingly engaged with technology from an early age, a move to join up traditional reading with technology could be the smartest move yet to reinvigorate an interest in reading.

Primary teacher, Frankie O’Reilly’s children’s novel, The Boy with his Head Stuck in a Book, uses augmented reality in an attempt to engage Year 6 boys in reading. While augmented-reality books have been on the scene for a few years, this is thought to be the first written for the key stage 2 curriculum.

In a report by TES, Ms O’Reilly said “Year 6 Sats were really leaning towards classical fiction, like Treasure Island, The Jungle Book and White Fang. And the boys in my class were so switched off. They didn’t want it. They were just really disengaged.”

Ms O’Reilly’s journey with The Boy with his Head Stuck in a Book started as a poem in a bid to get the boys in her classroom engaged with reading. The story is about a boy who is forced to go to the library, but doesn’t like reading, until he discovers a magical book. Ms O’Reilly soon realised that books and stories alone weren’t going to be enough to inspire the boys in her class to read, but she knew that putting an iPad in front of them had a different effect.

And so the augmented-reality version of The Boy with his Head Stuck in a Book was born and it’s had a surprisingly positive impact. She said, “it’s a bit of novelty, I guess, but the boys have a book in their hands now, and that’s exactly what I wanted.”

Augmented reality is a ridiculously good idea when it’s teamed with a great story, and The Boy with his Head Stuck in a Book is great read about a mysterious book with a mind of its own. Anyone reading the story is catapulted into a magical world filled with dinosaurs, dragons, pirates and ghosts.

The technology works by downloading an app to your smartphone (in this case Zapper), and then snapping pages when instructed to do so. You then bring the story alive on your phone. It’s definitely a book to inspire a love of books. For a preview take a look at Zappar’s YouTube clip. You can’t fail to be impressed. Digital pop-up books could be the best move yet to inspire kids to read again.

New term resolutions: how to minimise marking and reclaim your weekend

There probably isn’t a teacher across the UK who hasn’t had their weekends blighted by a spate of marking. Every Friday teachers leave schools in droves armed with a pile of books that require their attention in order to provide effective feedback to pupils in the classroom the following week.

Marking is a time-intensive process, and it needs to be done properly. With administrative tasks in the classroom creeping up, it’s no wonder many teachers reserve their weekends for marking work. There are, however some surprisingly simple ways to minimise the marking workload. Want to claw back your weekend? Read on for 9 brilliant tips to minimise marking and reclaim your weekend.

1 – STOP writing so much. Shorten the amount of feedback you give. Learn to be succinct and cover the main point that will benefit the child in terms of feedback. Matt Pinkett, a head of English at a school in Surrey, reported to The Guardian, “a smarter way of marking is essential. Rather than scrawling endless comments over 30 books, I now write down things the class do well – or not so well – on a crib sheet of A3 paper and feed this back verbally to the class.”

2 – Not every careless mistake needs correcting. You can’t close mark everything.

3 – You don’t have to grade every piece of work.

4 – Mark pupils work as they are doing it, and discuss feedback with pupils in real time. This is much more useful to pupils than written feedback on work pupils will have forgotten about by the time they get their marked work back the following week.

5 – Get your children to hand in their work in alphabetical order. It makes it easier for recording grades in your gradebook or register.

6 – Try some peer marking (where it’s age appropriate). Get the children to grade some of their own work by swapping books with a class mate. You can go through the answers with them in class.

7 – Grade some work in the classroom while your pupils are busy taking a test or working on an activity requiring minimum supervision. Always take any opportunity in the classroom to get on top of the marking.

8 – Get the children to put a marker tag in their workbooks on the page that requires your input. This will save a little bit of time when you’re going through the marking pile!

9 – Don’t get hung up on Ofsted. Even Ofsted are trying to bust the myth that extensive marking is beneficial for pupils’ learning. Sean Harford, HMI National Director for Education has advised Ofsted Inspectors not to report on marking practice, or attribute the degree of pupils progress pupils have made to effective or ineffective marking.

Reduce marking time and you’ll not only reclaim your weekends, you can spend more time doing things that will make you a better teacher, and help you to have more enjoyable and fulfilling weekends. Your pupils will benefit instantly from your renewed energy. Marking all weekend is soul-destroying and will eat away at your morale.

9 things teachers simply must do in the school summer holidays

Teaching isn’t an easy profession. It’s definitely rewarding, but pressure and demands are high. One of the biggest perks for teachers though is the summer holiday. With the school summer holiday break stretched out in front of you, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have all the time in the world to enjoy it. Start your school holiday without any plans and your summer break could pass you by in the blink of an eye.

There’s nothing more unsatisfying than feeling like valuable time off has been wasted. Plan your summer break well, with a mixture of pro-active tasks, leisure time, relaxation and thinking time and you’ll be able to go back to school after the summer hols with a spring in your step. Here are 9 things you simply must do to make the most of the summer break:

1 – Sleep – catch up on those zzzzs. After a long school year of early morning starts and late night marking, you deserve some extra zzzzs. Allow yourself a few late starts and some early nights, but don’t get into bad habits and waste the holidays doing nothing. There’s a balance to be had here.

2 – Meet your 9-5 friends for lunch (because you can). It’s payback time. Think of all the times your friends have taken days off during the school term for lazy lunches, while you’ve been stuck in the classroom.

3 – Make the most of the outdoors (but on rainy days catch up on the box sets). You’ve just spent the best part of your year cooped up in the classroom. It’s summer. Go for walks, get to the beach, spend time in your garden. Make the absolute most of fresh air and sunshine.

4 – Catch up on DIY. You’ve got plenty of time to tackle some of those bigger projects you haven’t had time for at weekends. Getting your house in order might feel like a chore, but when those tedious jobs are finished you know how good you’ll feel.

5 – Get back into an exercise routine – there are health benefits, and it will give you energy. Of course you’ll feel virtuous too!

6 – Shake up your menus and practise recipes for healthier snacks to get you through the next school year. When work takes over, menu planning and healthy eating can fall by the wayside. Now you have the time to give your diet an overhaul. Spend time enjoying cooking. Invite friends over to share in your newfound culinary delights.

7 – Delve into your personal development plans that have been shelved throughout the school year. The summer break is the perfect time to think about you, not the classroom.

8 – Don’t leave the next school year’s lesson planning until the last minute. Factor in a few hours a week over the summer to keep on top of the workload. Set yourself small targets and stick to them. You’ll be so pleased you did when your colleagues are stressing out a few days before the start of the next school year.

9 – Do some proper classroom research. With your head focused on getting through the workload all year, you’ve been literally paddling like crazy to stay afloat. Give yourself some breathing space and research some of the ways you can make your next school year work better for you and your pupils. Think outside the box for a change.

Renew your resources, your energy and your health.

The 7 brilliant benefits of teaching chess in primary schools

Chess is becoming increasingly popular in schools. Nine out of ten private schools promote it in some way, and state schools are beginning to cotton on to the benefits. A recent report in The Guardian indicates that chess has taken off as a way to lure pupils away from their phones, and improve concentration levels in the classroom. Park End Primary School in Middlesbrough is one of 800 primary schools to add chess to its curriculum and it is having some surprisingly great benefits.

Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC) is a charity which aims to improve children’s educational outcomes and foster their social development by introducing them to the game of chess. A recent meta-study carried out by the Educational Research review found that chess instruction does have a positive influence on both academic and cognitive abilities.

Here are just some of the benefits of teaching chess to our primary children:

1 – Playing chess encourages a digital detox

Kids live in a world of screens. Our classrooms are filled with electronic devices, smart screens and interactive whiteboards. Chess creates the perfect opportunity to unplug from all of those devices.

2 – Chess improves attention span and increases the ability to focus

When playing chess you have to stay focused at all times, otherwise your opponent will make a move to punish you. Continued practice at the game of chess improves attention span too.

3 – Chess tournaments boost children’s esteem

Winning a game is a great confidence boost, and learning a new skill is a definite boost to any child’s self-esteem. Even losing has a positive influence giving children the grace to accept defeat and the tenacity and grit to try again.

4 – Critical thinking

Chess is a quite complicated game involving a great deal of critical thinking. The ability to solve a problem is a skill needed in all subjects and in daily life. It is in fact the number one skill that employers look out for in the adult world. Conceptualising, analysing and evaluating a game plan in chess helps to improve the life skills of observation and reflection, and draw reasonable conclusions.

5 – Reasoning and planning ahead

The game of chess involves the ability to develop a strategy. It requires planning and logic. Children have to think one step ahead when playing chess and that’s a great skill to learn at such a young age. Chess also teaches children to reflect on the consequences of their actions.

6 – Chess is a universal game with no barriers

There are no boundaries to play chess. Whatever your faith, age, gender or ethnicity, and whether or not you are disabled, chess provides a level playing field for all. School sports day is a nemesis for those children who loathe sports. Chess gives your non-sporty children an opportunity to shine.

7 – Confidence in decision-making

It’s up to the player to lead his or her chess pieces to the best possible outcome. The game of chess relies on constant responsible decision-making. Poor decisions result in pieces being captured, and ultimately loss of the game. Playing chess kids learn how to make tough decisions without the help of an adult.

7 ways to maximise learning time in the classroom

Time is precious when it comes to teaching and learning. With big class sizes the norm in most state-funded schools, teachers are having to make every second with each of their pupils count. Minimising wasteful time to maximise learning opportunities in the classroom is more crucial than ever. Losing teaching time, even as little as 5 minutes per day, due to inefficiencies can have a negative impact on learners, especially those who are struggling.

If you are a teacher looking to maximise pupil learning time, here are 8 strategies to help you minimise downtime and give your pupils the extra teaching minutes that matter.

1 – Reduce distractions

Pupil arguments, unexpected classroom visitors and a whole range of distractions can take up valuable teaching time. While it would be impossible to eliminate every single distraction, keeping a journal, evaluating interruptions, and formulating plans to minimise them, should help to reduce distractions significantly.

2 – Sequence lessons intelligently

If the sequence of subjects are intelligently planned to cause the minimum distraction during transition time, you can gain back some valuable time. Ensuring the correct materials are on hand, and that pupils are ready to learn will help with the quick and seamless switching of subjects.

3 – Differentiate support

Different children learn in different ways. Understanding your classroom demographic and differentiating support needs means every child is more likely to get maximum learning time.

4 – Be prepared

Effective planning and preparation are key to maximising pupil learning time. Always over-plan and you’ll always have something to use if pupils get through the planned material quickly. Also, practise your routines to minimise time lost in explaining instructions.

5 – Stick to routines

Hand-in-hand with being prepared, having routines for passing round lesson materials and collecting work will make efficient use of time and minimise any confusion and disruption. With well-established routines and consistent lesson structures learning time won’t be wasted.

6 – Create efficient procedures

Efficiency in the classroom is essential to the running of a well-oiled machine. Simple techniques, such as writing task instructions on the board, having a routine for getting into groups, and pre-sharpening classroom pencils will bring more teaching minutes through time efficiency savings.

7 – Manage poor behaviour

Maintaining control in the classroom is essential if you are to avoid spending time managing pupils’ behaviour rather than teaching them. Continual development of effective behavioural management skills where learning is valued and you as a teacher are respected is essential in limiting time lost to managing poor behaviour.

Follow the school behaviour policy where it is good. Otherwise use the least intrusive methods for behaviour management. Just saying a child’s name can be enough for them to know you have clocked their behaviour. Always work at your behaviour management methods so you have an armoury of techniques – not every approach will work with every child.

How to teach youngsters about democracy

With the snap general election just behind us, and Brexit negotiations about to start, the subject of democracy couldn’t be more relevant. In fact, with the current climate of political uncertainty, there’s never been a more pressing time to teach our children about the values of democracy. When kids ask ‘what’s the point in voting?’ or say ‘they don’t understand’ it’s important we teach them what is at stake. Spouting your personal political views to youngsters isn’t the answer. Teaching the values of democracy is.

Here’s how.

Run your own referendum

Understanding the voting process and hearing different views will give children a snapshot of what democracy and electoral voting is all about. A referendum on school uniform changes, or one of the school rules will give youngsters some idea about the power of their voice and their vote. In the classroom, you could run a referendum on a fictitious topic or debate a current social policy relevant to school. What about the free school meals policy?

Set up a news club and have discussion groups about current affairs

Discussions around ‘what is the point of democracy?’ and ‘what would happen without democracy’ are suitable topics for older primary aged children. Debating and discussing current affairs in an age appropriate format is key.

The Burnet News Club, named after Sir Alastair Burnet, is a network of school news clubs offering support in current affairs. The club’s focus is on developing a particular set of thinking skills for forming independent opinions and enabling sound and persuasive argument. Club members have access to current affairs content written for young people (aged 8 and upwards) by The Economist.

Involve your local MP

What your MP can bring to your classroom will depend on their personality. The main aim should be to show the human side of politicians and create an engaging and interactive forum for pupils to ask questions about local and national politics and social policies.

Give pupils a voice – create a debate

The primary starting place for teaching about democracy is to give your students a voice. While the school curriculum covers much of the academic work required for pupils to succeed, the teaching of how our young people are to become active, responsible, informed citizens in a democracy doesn’t get enough air-time, despite the fact that the teaching of democracy is a stated goal for most schools.

Students do require teaching to fully understand and appreciate the democratic process and why we need to protect it. Using debate in the classroom teaches children that they have a voice and are allowed to express their opinion. Parliament’s teaching resources offers a debating pack for age 7 -11 year olds.

Our young people are the future. They deserve our investment.

What makes a great teacher? Pupils have their say

A ‘get in to teaching’ advert by the Department of Employment in The Guardian took the unusual approach of including interviews by pupils about what makes a great teacher. More and more studies indicate the most important factor in determining the quality of education a child receives is the quality of his or her teacher.

Teaching is a vocation and most of those entering the profession do so because they want to make a difference. Being a great teacher though requires more than a desire to make a difference. There are a number of additional qualities that come naturally to the best teachers.

Here are 5 attributes and skills pupils at one London High School say make a great teacher:

1 – Enthusiasm and support

Good teachers are enthusiastic and supportive, and can make a big difference to how well you do”, says Tayla-Rae, 15. She went on to say, “when you get a teacher who inspires and really cares about you, then it makes a big difference.”

2 – Passion

When teachers are passionate about their subject it invariably rubs off. On support and passion, one pupil says “I never used to like maths, but Mr Datta has given me a lot of extra support at lunchtime and after school. He is really passionate about maths, which is infectious.”

3 – Respect and trust

Great teachers have to have a connection with their students. In the Department of Employment’s advert, Joe, a 15 year old pupil from the same London High School says there has to be a symbiotic relationship between teachers and students. Another pupil went as far as saying really good teachers are almost like a friend.

For teachers to engage with children about how they were feeling was also seen as important by the pupils. Another pupil said “I feel I can talk to Ms Berry about anything, about academic work or things that have happened in school. I trust her as a mentor.”

4 – Praise

Teacher praise is a powerful motivator for students if used correctly. Praising effort and accomplishment using specific examples does help students to see a direct link between their effort and the outcome of a task. One pupil who had given up playing the piano was inspired to take it up again when her music teacher told her how good she was at it after the class were all asked to play a piece on the piano as part of a music lesson.

5 – Engagement

A great teacher can make even the most boring of subjects interesting. One pupil interviewed said of her teacher “Mr Jones gets everyone’s attention by the way he moves. He doesn’t just stay in one spot, but he’s all around us. His lessons never get boring.” Sometimes it can be something quite simple that makes a teacher stand out. Ultimately, teachers who can get the whole class engaged in the lesson have a much greater chance of making a difference to the outcomes of all, rather than just a few.