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!

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