After doing a couple of PGCE placements, most new teachers can’t wait to have their own classes and start settling into school. But with only one-third of NQTs now getting permanent posts after qualifying, supply teaching is an option that can’t be ignored, even if it’s just with a view to getting something permanent.
However, you must be aware that the clock starts ticking on your 16-month induction period as soon as you start supply teaching.
BEFORE YOU START CHECKLIST
Even before you start working, apply for a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. This can often take about six weeks to process but supply teaching agencies won’t take on any teachers without it. You could send your CV to schools directly, but signing up to agencies maximizes your chance of getting work, even if they do take a percentage of your pay. It’s worth contacting a few to find out the rates of pay, as this can vary from £75 to £160 depending on the available posts and the area where you are looking.
Few teachers go in to education because of a love of behaviour management. But knowing how to handle a class of disruptive youngsters is crucial for supply teachers, as pupils will try to push the boundaries if they know you’re only there for a day or two. Ask about the school’s behaviour policy before you step foot in a classroom and find out the name of the head of year so that you have some effective penalties to use.
Sadly, even supply teachers cannot get out of the early morning starts. Supply agencies will be calling you from 7.30am and your day will be much easier if you manage to get into class at least 45 minutes before the pupils arrive.
Teaching is often referred to as a performance, but this is even more true for supply teachers, who have a limited period of time to get pupils’ attention, maintain some kind of order and, if they’re lucky, cover the work that has been set. For primary classes or younger year groups in secondary schools, wordsearches are a great way to buy a bit of time.
- Make sure you understand the 16-month rule
- Go to the early morning staff meeting. It’s good to show your face and there might be something relevant about your class.
- Always have a picture book, a DVD or a game with you to use as a discussion point.
- Be flexible: you’re not always going to be in your comfort zone, but learn to go with the flow.
- Find out the school’s behaviour policy so you know the protocol.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. Senior management will be glad you’ve shown initiative.
- Approach your supply work as an extended interview - it might get you a job.
- If you think you’re being underpaid, contact your union to check the norm.
SURVIVAL TIPS FROM CARDIFF SUPPLY TEACHER JO WEST
- Get used to early morning, evening and weekend calls.
- Keep a diary detailing where you are working and with whom (agency or LA).
- Make sure you know exactly how much you are going to get paid and when - try to have this confirmed via email or text.
- Always carry a supply of pens, pencils, board pens etc as not all classrooms have these available.
- Take a flask of tea/coffee with you as not all staffrooms cater for drinks for supply staff.
- Be prepared to teach subjects alien to your specialist discipline. This will happen a lot.
- Don’t be afraid to negotiate a higher rate of pay with an agency if you need to travel a long distance or the school has a ‘challenging’ reputation.
- You will need A1 classroom management skills as many pupils view supply staff as fair game for a spot of teacher baiting.
- Keep or develop a good sense of humour - some days you’re really going to need it.
The TES supply teachers' forum
Chat to other supply teachers and share your experiences
Wordsearches from TES Resources
A selection of wordsearches for all year groups uploaded by teachers to TES Resources
Supply teacher's rules
Useful tool to take on supply teaching contracts
Resource for supply teachers
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