I worked as a supply teacher at four schools – Harefield Academy, Rutlish (Wimbledon, all boys), Warwick (Surrey), and St. Joseph’s (Croydon, all boys). Some mornings and afternoons travel time got close to ninety minutes, but this provided valuable time to plan, think, and see the sights of inner London. Here is a list of my thoughts about teaching in London and maybe some useful tips to consider if you are thinking about teaching in London:

  • The secondary school structure and system is different in London to what I was used to in Australia. Generally speaking the school day is set up differently, and the most noticeable difference that I recall was that students had more influence and say with what happens at school (more perceived power).
  • The students that I worked with were highly attuned to supply teachers, and consequently being a supply teacher had a real stigma attached to it. Due to this there were times when it was difficult to get students interested, involved, and learning.
  • It would be worthwhile to develop some background knowledge of the education system in London, and also doing some homework on the different regions of London (East, West, North, South). The schools that I taught in were highly multicultural, and often this observed students who had difficulty with the English language.
  • I am a trained Health and Physical Education teacher, but I taught a whole range of subjects. In PE students hold 99 percent of their interest in football (soccer), so teaching any alternative can be challenging.
  • Some days are good, other days not so good – just like any job. I was presented with the opportunity to teach longer term at two of the schools I worked at, and if I was staying longer I would have considered this. My recommendation, if possible is to make a longer commitment to one or a couple of schools and work to develop a relationship with staff and students. Over time this will have benefits. Unfortunately due to my short time commitment I as unable to do this.

Casey, Tasmania, Australia

For both daily and long term work:

Ring a few local schools – they should be objective! – ask which agencies they use – if they give the same agency – than contact that agency – although that could just mean they are cheap!! So ask the school whether thats the reason they use them – they should be honest – they have no reason not to be. Cheap agencies – will generally either be small and hungry – keen to get into the market OR just plain mean.

Then join any few of these agencies – get out working – you can’t make and omlette etc! Talk to other agency staff within schools – especially ones who have been doing it for a while – what do they see as the good and bad points of a few agencies?

Often agencies with the most work will have the lowest rates – because they are the cheapest they get given lots of work! No surprise there.

The best arrangement for daily teachers who really do not mind what they teach – is the find a new, young agency who have clients – but are struggling for teachers. They will have small expenses, but will be exceptionally grateful of a new talented teacher to send out to their small client list. If you can deliver – then this is for you. New agencies will typically be advertising in google adwords – not on the natural search first page – again a more mature supply teacher will tell you who they are.

Be effective :

Ontime, dressed smartly, teaching actively, be seen to keep a couple of students behind – unless the miracle occured and there was zero disruption. As well as looking good to managament – who will positive – feedback to the agency – it means that if you return to the school you will get better treament from the students than you otherwise would have!

Try and assess the feel of the school:

Some schools will like you to seek management support the moment something goes wrong. Others will resent constant requests for management support and will think that you are not “hacking it” – which kind is it? What is acceptable and what is not? Can you see yourself enjoying that particular environment for a while – remember you can go anywhere – you are a supply teacher!!

One agency is rarely enough (for long term work)!

For daily work – one busy agency could be enough. When you wish to settle however – you want to cast your net far and wide – and you really want at least three agencies to contrast and compare……..and to play off against each other. The better your feedback and experience – the more they will bend to your will on rates remember that! There is also a hierarchy of “in need” subjects. Maths always tops the ladder! Science is usually next and each year there is a wild card , sometimes RE, sometimes Art and sometimes Geography – totally unpredictable and often as a result of government lead changes in curriculum content.

Always say you have other options – always mention in passing that another avenue is available to you. Use the subtlist comment to indicate you have other options. You don’t need to stand on the roof shouting about it – just one comment is all that’s needed. Agents ears are so sensitive! If you disappear – so has his placement! After you have a done a trial lesson you will also know how many others are going for the role / what kind of chance you have. Depending on this – you can fix your rate expectations.

Over and out for now and good luck for your agency hunt!

Image taken from sweetclipart.com
Image taken from sweetclipart.com

Everyone knows research and preparation is key to walking out of that interview feeling good, like you have done all you can do. The pressure to do your best intensifies when you know the competition is high, which nowadays is commonplace for school jobs. Therefore we have compiled some practical points for supply tutors looking to secure teaching jobs in London:

  • If you have a solid record of experience behind you, don’t be humble but bring this to the fore. Ensure the employer sees the value of having you on board.  With AWR you’ll be cheaper to the school even employed through a teaching agency if you are less experienced. This is a big selling point.
  • Get as much information from you agent about the department and school as possible. Names , length of service, whether the supply teacher agency have sent someone there before will be a good start when gathering background knowledge.  Consider whether they know what the school will be wary of and if your agent knows of any prejudices ?
  • Get prepared to ask some questions. This will leave the employer knowing you are keen and have thought about the position thoroughly. Some great questions to ask might be: What is the exact format of the interview / meeting ? What are your resources? Will you get class lists? Can you have a copy of the school behaviour policy ? Who will be watching you teach? Does the agent know them?
  • In the agents experience what is the most common reason for candidates getting rejected from all schools ? From this school? Use this information to deduce how to underline your strengths so this is not a reason for rejection.
  • Get the supply teacher agency to discuss the pay rate with you before you go to interview. That way you can challenge the rate before giving away how keen you are on the role.
  • Get to know the school by reading the schools Ofsted report and looking at the schools website. Have they been mentioned in any recent news reports? Impress the senior management by showing a genuine interest in their school.
  • Find out which syllabus the school follows. Have you taught that before? Can you find out about it from friends or peers? At interview demonstrate you have put some research into this.
  • Always ask about the circumstances of the departing teacher – for your own sake! Has there been a string of supply teaching that timetable? Who is the longest serving member? This will give you an idea if the department is stable or not.
  • Do you know anyone else who works at the school or has worked there? If so, mention this connection if it is recent and could be seen to have informed you of the schools ethos and culture.

So when seeking school jobs from a supply teacher agency, following these points of advice can be a powerful reminder when prepping for an interview. Do you have any tips you think work well for the interview stage? Let us know!

I wish I had a penny for every time a student in London schools has asked me “Why are all our supply teachers Australian?” Apparently we are everywhere: Australian teachers who have come over to London for a great daily pay rate and a heap of holidays to go see Europe.

I never used to have any interest in living in London, but after finishing my teaching qualifications at the end of last year I decided to head to London as a base to do some travelling before settling into work in Australia. With no teaching experience I was a little concerned about picking up work in London, but the teaching agencies all assured me that I would be able to find work quite easily.

I arrived in London at the end of January this year after living in Coffs Harbour for the past few years. I knew arriving in the middle of winter would be a little tough, but it was still quite a shock to the system to go from 30 degree days to 1 degree days. Needless to say the day after I arrived I went on a shopping spree for warm clothes (how naive was I to think that gloves are a luxury not a necessity?). I had offers to stay with friends of friends in London, but I felt a little uncomfortable about staying on the couch of someone I didn’t know so I stayed in a hostel in central London. This is definitely something I would have done differently given my time again – staying in dorm rooms with cold showers and filthy kitchens is not a heap of fun, especially when you are getting up in the dark each morning to go to work.

I had planned to do supply work but in my first week of looking for work I went to a job interview through teachweb. I liked the staff and support I got from the school, so I accepted a long term supply position up until summer break. Rick had warned me that it was a challenging group of students at the school and they didn’t disappoint. Looking back I had completely thrown myself in the deep end (new career, new country, new school), but I had great support from the school and great teachers around me to offer advice and support. It was an extremely steep learning curve but a great teaching experience.

Once the summer started I was off travelling and seeing Europe for the first time. Since February I have been to Paris, Italy, Croatia, Budapest, Prague, Holland and Finland, as well as some sightseeing in and around London. Paris and Italy were unbelievably beautiful, Croatia was a heap of fun and Holland was the most laid back and relaxed place I have ever been.

Finland was probably the best holiday as I stayed with a local and so got to really experience the local culture. We spent most of the holiday in the country staying in their summer cottage fishing, swimming in the lake and eating (way too much) great food and experiencing traditional Finnish saunas. Sitting in a sauna with a whole bunch of women, all of us completely nude, slapped each others backs with birch leaves was not exactly what I imagined as part of my holiday, but the ‘when in Rome…’ philosophy to travelling had worked well so far so I thought I should run with it. Unlike France and Italy I had no chance of speaking the Finnish language, although my attempts brought lots of entertainment to the people I stayed with.

As far as London goes, it has been so much better than I imagined. Contrary to popular belief, London does actually see a lot of sun over the summer months and after a cold winter the place absolutely comes alive when the sun is out. London pubs have great beer gardens (why they do beer gardens better than Australia is still a mystery to me), awesome parks everywhere to sunbake in and kick a footy, and great outdoor markets (especially Camden markets) which are absolutely buzzing with such a diverse range of people. Being such a big city there is always something fun to do, with my favourite experiences so far being the rugby 7’s tournament at Twickenham (dress up beach theme, rugby, no line up to get a beer and great people make for a great day out), Kings of Leon in Hyde Park and rowing on the Thames (definitely no Sydney Harbour but it is still nice to be on the water nonetheless).

So for any teachers out there considering the move to London, my advice is to book your tickets now! This is the quietest time for work and I have still had plenty of work, there are lots of other travellers in London and a whole heap of fun to be had. My opinion may be slightly different after a full winter here, but at the moment I am loving it.

Written by Sarah for teachweb

After arriving at the school I was totally stoked to have actually got there without getting hopelessly lost. Id used a combination of the Transport for London website and my A to Z of London to navigate my way there.

All the horror stories of London schools came to mind as I approached the gate and spoke to one of several security guards that were checking out the kids for who knows what as they entered the school. The outside of the school resembled more of a prison than the schools I was used to. Added to this I was feeling extremely uncomfortable having ditched my Havaianas, boardies and singlet only days before for a Thailand special, fake Armani shirt, tie, suit pants and closed in shoes. Entering the school I was given a timetable and told “good luck” as I was directed to a classroom at the end of an overcrowded corridor.

These first few lessons went quite smoothly, I can’t say we completed all that much of the dodgy cover work that had been left for me, but I can’t imagine their permanent teacher expected much when all she had left was a boring textbook that pupils were expected to read then copy into their books. Hardly innovative stuff, so it wasn’t long before I turned from teacher to entertainer and told travel stories and answered questions about Australia and Tasmania just to keep them in their seats.

After lunch my senior class was a whole new ball game. Upon entering the class I noticed that just as with the other classes I had, had that day the majority of pupils were immigrants from the West Indies. We seemed to hit a language barrier early whereas despite the fact these kids were speaking English they may as well have been talking Chinese. There wasn’t much of what they said that I could understand.

I am not sure if it’s because these kids were older and had heard all the Aussie cover teacher stories before or if they were just hell bent on not listening to a word I said but this lesson was promising to be a battle from the start. The majority of pupils refused to take out their work. Then these same students refused to take out their diaries so I could check their names should they misbehave. The whole lesson from then started to take a downward spiral when after having exhausted all my behavioural management strategies I sent a responsible looking pupil off to get the deputy principle, of course he didn’t return. So I sent another student, this time managing to get his diary and name beforehand to ensure the job got done. So this lesson dragged on and on and I used all my time putting out spot fires, returning stolen pencil cases, settling down arguments, even breaking up a few push and shove matches. There still was no sign of any support from senior staff and with the perpetrators staying unidentifiable it was clear they would get away with their behaviours.

When the lesson finally finished I felt like I had run a marathon and it was then that I came across the deputy relaxing and chatting in the staffroom with a cup of tea in hand. She mentioned some sort of apology for not helping to sort out my problem lesson. It this stage I didn’t really care if I ever went back to this school again so I just thanked her for the support and kept on my way.

This scenario might sound familiar to anyone who has heard stories or knows of anyone who has taught in the UK. However for me it was really the only negative teaching experience I have had in the 12months that ive been teaching here so I would like to urge people to hold their judgement on teaching overseas until you have experienced it for yourself. As it turned out the next day i was sent out to a Boys Sports College where I was asked back everyday to teach PE for the next 6 months. Then when the new school year started in September I picked up a permanent position as a Head of Phys Ed in a High School literally 50 metres from my apartment. I think the best way to approach teaching in London is to never lose sight of your main motivation for being here. Then whatever experience whether good or bad is just that, an experience, at worse you might have a good story to tell when you get back home.

Written by Matt for teachweb