During Summer 2021, we surveyed members working in supply about working conditions, pay, and how valued they feel by the people they work with.
- The vast majority of respondents (64%) engaged wholly in short-term supply work.
- 28% had a mix of long and short-term supply, or had some permanent work supplemented with supply work too.
- 12% had never previously been employed full time.
- 8% were looking for long-term supply positions.
- The bulk of respondents (60%) had been engaged in supply work for 5 years or more.
- 24% had worked supply for more than 10 years.
- 20% had only been working supply over the past couple of years.
Respondents came from across the education workforce in England (82%), Scotland (11%) and Wales (7%), with the majority from a primary teaching background.
Despite a significant number being trained teachers, some members have had to take up cover supervisor roles or work in another supporting capacity because some schools are not recruiting teachers to cover lessons.
According to our survey, very few teacher members regularly accept support staff work, but it does happen.
In contrast, a notable number always work outside of their specialist areas when undertaking supply work. This could mean that a teacher trained to deliver one subject is being deployed in a completely different area – making their work more challenging, and not being ideal for the children either.
Depending on the role, previous experiences and training, it can be difficult to know exactly what is expected of you when you arrive at a new setting for the first time. Respondents noted that expectations are made clear to them most of the time - though this is usually only verbal. And almost without fail, these were felt to be appropriate to the role, with members noting…
“Most schools have a reasonable expectation in regards what work is left and marking. Each setting is different and there have been occasions when things haven’t been explained such as behaviour policies, who to go to for help etc but most schools do give you the information you need.”
“All come under duties I would expect to do.”
Of course, some settings have other expectations…
“…sometimes the amount of marking expected to be completed before you go home can be demanding. Also, some explanations of lessons can be quite vague".
“Have been in situation in short term contract where I'm running the class, planning, assessing parent consultations reports as the class teacher, but on supply rate only.”
And depending on where you are, and for how long you may be able to access support and training, with 68% noting they had been offered CPD whilst on a placement.
Other respondents mentioned “supply rate”. The School Teachers’ Pay & Conditions Document (STPCD) (England) is quite clear that supply teachers should be paid a daily rate based on their pay point. So, a teacher paid on M4 should receive 1/195th of £31,778, or £162.96 per day. Tax, National Insurance and other deductions would need to be made. There are also provisions for supply teachers’ pay and conditions in the SNCT Handbook (Scotland) and STPCD (Wales).
This seems to fit with a limited proportion of respondents and given that over 74% of respondents were over 45, we would have expected more people to paid at the higher salary points.
When considering their pay, 27% of respondents felt this to be about the same as normal and 18% felt this was more or significantly more than their normal daily rate.
However, 32% felt this was less than, and 23% significantly less than, their normal daily pay. 35% did not feel this was a fair amount for their work. And once statutory deductions have been made, a daily gross salary of less than £100 per day begins to look less than attractive.
The pandemic hit supply staff hard. Once schools and early years settings closed, work dried up, and because of the way they are funded, many staff were ineligible for furlough.
Whilst some were able to receive a normal salary by virtue of long-term supply, and some were supported with limited funds by their employer or supply agency, others had to resort to Universal Credit.
“No work during lock-downs at all.”
“Far less work available. Schools have openly said that they haven't had visitors in school where possible.”
“I finished my PGDE in December and it took until march to get added to the supply list which I felt was too long.”
And even now, some respondents express concern over their safety at returning to the workplace:
“… I have refused all work since as I am not confident in large groups of people.”