It’s time to support the supply teachers


The fact that there is a whole legion of supply teachers who are able to eke out a living from plugging gaps in our education system, shows just what state our education system is in. There is anecdotal evidence that supply teachers at the moment are barely going a term-time day without work, and some schools have between 5-10 supply teachers a day!

This chaotic state of teaching can mean that sometimes supply teachers are expected to cover lessons which have been without a permanent teacher for months; normally at KS3 level as GCSE and A-Level pupils (whose results are fundamental to the success of the school) tend to be protected from the transient nature of supply teaching. The inconsistency in teaching brought about by different teachers, and different levels of preparation, means that it is nigh on impossible for standards to be maintained. Supply teachers tell stories of how preparation ranges from post-it notes with textbook pages written on it, to one-dimensional worksheets. How can you expect pupils to do well when the permanent staff aren’t helping supply staff to do an effective job?

It is obviously a far from ideal situation to have a supply teacher, for everyone involved. However, as with anything, if the teacher is used properly, respected and supported then they can provide the much needed support that they were intended for. Unsurprisingly, given the amount of pressure put on permanent members of staff, there is no support in place for supply teachers. Support teachers have complained of at best being ignored in the staff room, and at worst treated with outright hostility. Is it really acceptable to treat staff who have been brought in to relieve the pressure caused by a struggling system like this?

What are your thoughts? Are you a supply teacher? Have you been treated badly at a school you temped in? Let us know in the comment boxes below.


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2016-10-12 18:05:57 - Jeff Hopkins

I do 'daily supply' in primary schools near Bognor Regis in West Sussex. I have found nearly all staff very helpful and supportive.

2016-10-12 18:09:27 - Kathryn Punchard

At one school I walked into the classroom-yr1- with bags in both hands and my coat on. The class teacher didn't even look at me, she pushed a sheet of 'planning ' into my hand and walked out. The "planning " was allhieroglyphics and abbreviations. The TA arrived with the children so I had no idea what I was doing !

2016-10-12 18:59:40 - catherine barnes

I worked as a supply teacher in a primary school in Cambridge.I am a french teacher , native speaker , hold the QTS , DBS , Naric assessment , with 25 years teaching experience in france. When I went to this school , it was a discipline , no explanations, no contacts with other teachers, nothing about save guarding. A NIGHTMARE.nobody talked to me . I was on another world.teachers and pupils were not polite .

2016-10-12 19:28:13 - manjit singh lall/member of NASUWT

supply Teachers should be given full powers as a full time teachers or Lecturers I have been teaching in colleges and schools over 20 years. no support no help ignored in the staff room. we are covering lessons respect should be given to all we helping the school not even a thank you for covering.

2016-10-12 20:01:13 - (withheld)

Was doing long-term supply as an NQT, but employed by teaching agency. Didn't receive NQT time, and with a challenging class, the stress got too much. Haven't been back to teaching, considering other options, but feel sad that I didn't receive more support from the school.

2016-10-12 20:07:10 - Supply Teacher

I don't recognise your ' barely going a term time day without work.' There are requests to do cover supervisor work and even t a work from the agencies. This evening I've been asked to be on standby for half a days teaching and I've not had a pay rise for a very long time. The money is definitely an issue. Would I want to do all the things a contracted teacher does on an NQTs salary? I wouldn't blame anyone for coasting. In addition, those classroom management skill you need for supply, fire fighting really, are not properly valued. Also, the attitude and behaviour of staff is at best precarious. I have been treated with courtesy and have remembered it long after.

2016-10-12 22:26:40 - Emma Hughes

Supply teachers are frequently very poorly supported, have no access to training but are expected to provide up to date curriculum knowledge in the classroom. We want to do our very best for the children in our classroom but sometimes have no access to a whiteboard, computer, plans or any support. Just thrown into a class and expected to "get on with it". We go in with minimal notice - sometimes within an hour or so of an urgent call. Pay has not changed for at least 10 years and the same rate now includes holiday and sick leave cover. A real joke and often not worth while going to work for in certain schools where you know you will not be welcomed or supported by the office and teaching staff, where the Headteacher shows no interest at all. Pupils often poorly behaved and disruptive with no in class TA /LSA and with timetable changes sprung on you with sometimes just a few minutes notice. I love teaching children and want to see the "light bulb" moment when you know you have made a difference to a child's learning, understanding and knowledge. There should be free access to the ever "new" curriculum for supply staff but it is an area that no one will invest in, not the agencies, the unions or the Government. So what can be done? My union is working with an organisation which is currently trying to change the stranglehold which agencies have and who take 30% of the fee which schools are charged for supply staff. The "finders fee" to release supply teachers to schools who want to employ them full time and who are after all self employed is prohibitive for schools, about £4,500 per teacher. Teachers have no contract - it is a zero hours situation, you only work if the agency like you. You can try to get them to increase the rate to you but even if you should be on UPS 3 you will still only receive the very basic rate which all supply teachers are offered. Sorry for the rant but agencies have the supply market stitched up against the teachers who for various reasons have to do supply work. Headteachers are at the mercy of the agencies just as much as the supply staff. We often don't know who we are going to get and how competent they are in the classroom.

2016-10-13 00:46:20 - Unknown

I've been a supply for about 3 years now. Like mentioned there are days I'm more appreciated than others. I've always tried my best to actually teach but sadly where I'm from (canada) my experience as a supply has been very negative...I feel like a babysitter because I'm not trusted to do any actual teaching. I've always wanted to improve my teaching and I'm sad to note this isn't happening here....things were much better in the UK in primary schools!!

2016-10-13 08:37:48 - Carol

I have had the opportunity to work as a supply teacher in Canada and in the UK. I have a very different experience to the other teacher in Canada. I felt that I had far more support and respect whilst teaching in Canada. Teachers were required to leave fully detailed plans and resources for the supply. It took some time, but after building a relationship with a group of schools, I became the "regular" supply and was treated as a member of staff. My problem with the Canadian system and its treatment of supplies was the nepotism when I applied for permanent positions. This was the reason for my move to England. Once here, I secured full time work in a matter of months. The failing system has since forced me out as I gelt that I was being asked to do the job in such a way that it did not benefit my pupils. i am back to supply work, but it is an arduous task, with some teachers leaving good planning and others leaving next to nothing. I can live with being ignored in the staff room, but I would appreciate the simple common courtesy of a daily schedule of arrival, break, lunch and dismissal, never mind the planning scrubbed on a post-it. I have had almost 10 years experience, so I can muddle through a day in a classroom with no plans, but I am unlikely to work for that teacher again. I think that the lack of respect for teachers from the government has a ripple effect. I could go on and on about this, but in short, teachers should be required to leave appropriate plans for the supply teacher. We all know how classroom management is affected when the pupils are not engaged in activities that stimulate them. Perhaps a part of the NQT year should be spent doing supply work. this may help teachers to understand what it is like to walk into an unfamiliar classroom and have to rely on the children for support.

2016-10-13 11:15:43 - Geoff

Anecdotal evidence (Supply Teachers' Network on FB) actually suggests that day to day supply teachers are struggling to find work, even given that this half-term is the most difficult of the school year, as increasing numbers of teachers give up their jobs to go on supply due to the ever increasing demands put on them in permanent positions. Ironically, part of day to day supply is covering for those collapsing under the weight of observations and paperwork!

2016-10-13 12:25:36 - JAS

I work daily supply in the South West. I am always treated well by members of staff. Planning is always in place as are behaviour strategies.

2016-10-13 18:23:08 - AHB

I have been a supply teacher for a couple of years now. Apart from a handful of schools in Eastern region, my experience has been positive. Overall, the staff and HTs have been friendly and are grateful for having a teacher to take a class. The provision of planning can vary, some too detailed to assimilate quickly and some lacking. I recently did two terms in one school where in essence you cannot be viewed as supply because you are back doing the same role as a contracted teacher. Despite being paid only slightly better than the usual daily rate, you find yourself back being a slave to the job. However, whether a contract or supply teacher we are in a profession and want to do a good job for the children. Schools use their staff to report back on supply teachers and those doing a good job in sometimes difficult circumstances are appreciated and get repeat work or are requested through an agency.

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