By Mary Rodger, Marketing Manager
Teachers are given an attractive pitch when it comes to the benefits of supply teaching:
- a better work-life balance;added flexibility;
- experience a variety of schools; and
- revitalise your career.
However, before considering this move, you must first consider all aspects of working supply.
You don't have to work with an agency, but the vast majority of supply teachers do. Your agency is not just there to source jobs and find suitable posts; it should also be there to offer support, too. Your selection of agencies is therefore vital.
Things you should consider before signing to an agency:
- Recommendations – ask supply teachers you know if they would recommend a good agency – they won’t be shy to tell you the truth.
- Experience – make sure you’ll be working with an experienced consultant. If they’ve been a teacher themselves, then all the better, as they will understand the issues you face and want to avoid. Don’t get stuck with an agency that cuts corners when supporting you to find the right supply opportunities.
- DfE Deal – agencies can now register with the DfE Deals for Schools, which provides schools with a list of DfE-preferred agencies in their area. Making sure your agency is one of these will increase the volume of opportunities on offer.
- Finances – pay will be less if you take jobs through an agency and vary from agency to agency.
- Payments and fees – don’t be bashful about talking about money. It’s vital that you find out how and when payments are made and what fees are charged by an agency before you sign up. Check out reviews and forums to see if the agency has a good or bad reputation for payments or hidden fees.
- Pension – your agency will not pay contributions into the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.
- Schools – make sure your agency works with the types of schools you want, with the age of pupil you want and in the geographic areas where you want to work.
- Training – all good agencies should provide some free training. Make sure to ask about what’s available to ensure you can continue your professional development.
- Safeguarding – whilst this is primarily a concern for the school, you can use an agency’s attitude to safeguarding as a gauge as to whether the agency is reputable and takes its responsibilities seriously. It is the agency's responsibility to check that you are up-to-date with the necessary safeguarding training.
- DBS Certificates – you will be responsible for paying for and renewing your annual DBS certificate.
Make sure you’ve considered the down sides, as well as the positives, of being a supply teacher:
It’s important to remember, that whilst supply work offers flexibility, there will be times when you want work but can’t find it. You will not be guaranteed a regular income. There is often a shortage of opportunities in January and September – when supply teachers often need work the most.
Be prepared for a challenge
Supply teachers need to be flexible, adaptable and prepared. You may have received an outline of what you will be doing, but be prepared for it to change. You may arrive to find you have no learning support assistant (LSA) to help guide you with the children and class routines, and you certainly won’t know where the PE cupboard is or where the art supplies are kept.
Good supply teachers are the kind of teacher who travels prepared with adaptable resources and you may on rare occasions be expected to use your own lesson plans. If that doesn’t sound like you, then maybe supply teaching is not the right fit for you.
You will be expected to mark all the work that you have taught in the day, so it is vital that you check what the school’s marking policy is and that you adhere to it.
Unless you become a regular fixture at a certain school, then you’ll have to face the reality that the staff Christmas party is no longer in your future! On a more serious note, working as a supply teacher can leave you feeling isolated, as you will not have the support of regular colleagues to rely on. Make sure that won’t take the shine off your work life.
Teresa Bottomley, a Voice Council member and supply teacher, when asked what advice she would give to anyone starting out in supply teaching, said:
"Even if it’s only for a half day, listen to and be approachable to the advice of the staff that you’re working alongside.
"Quickly asses how the pupils are interacting in the classroom and be prepared to stop and change it if it’s not working."
Wherever you work, in whatever capacity, Voice is here for you throughout your career and is on hand to help guide you to the right decisions and tackle issues as they arise.