Do supply teachers enjoy flexibility and freedom or are they exploited and losing out to cover supervisors and HLTAs?
Supply teachers have long played an essential role by providing cover for teachers who are ill or absent. Many supply teachers enjoy or find useful the flexibility of supply teaching and the reduced burden of paperwork and bureaucracy more freedom and less responsibility, perhaps. You don't have to put up with the daily grind of working with colleagues or pupils you dislike.
Some teachers find supply work a useful way of gaining experience or of returning to teaching or preparing to retire from it.
However, there are also many difficulties.
Challenging schools tend to use more supply teachers, so they often have to work in difficult or stressful situations.
If you've not taught in a school before it makes it difficult if you don't know anything about the discipline policies, the pupils (which are diligent, those with problems, those who like to cause trouble, especially for a new teacher), the other members of staff and their staffroom politics
There are also pay and conditions issues sick pay is not usually available, for example, and Voice has also heard from members who complain of being 'exploited' by the agencies that employ them and discriminated against in terms of their rates of pay, pension provision and training.
In fact, in its recent 'Election Manifesto', Voice called for "The provision of equal opportunities for supply teachers in terms of salary, pensions and CPD" (continuing professional development). (Voice supports a CPD entitlement for all teachers.)
A small step forward has been achieved in the pay of agency workers, including supply teachers.
Last year, employment law was changed to give agency workers equal pay rights with regular workers, although as the qualifying period was one day a week for 12 weeks, this cut out supply teachers because of the inevitable intervention of school holidays. However, it has been confirmed that periods when 'businesses' are closed do not count as interruptions to service.
It is not all good news though, because service has to be in the same school and the new arrangements do not come into force until September 2011!
The role of the supply teacher has changed forever. There is still a very important role for supply teachers (or cover teachers employed as part of a school's staff) to provide medium and long-term cover for teacher absence. However, they now face competition from HLTAs (higher level teaching assistants) and cover supervisors. Some schools (in breach of the workforce agreement have been using teaching assistants to provide cover instead of using supply teachers or even HLTAs or cover supervisors).
Do let us know your views and experiences .