Think you know everything about supply teaching?

It is surprising how some teachers can be misinformed about what the role entails.

In this post we explain the reality behind the myths.

1. There is not much supply teaching work about

Make hay while the sun shines! Demand for daily supply teaching work does indeed vary with the seasons.

Know that during the winter months you can expect lots of supply teaching work. The reason? During the winter months illness stalks the average hard working teacher.

During the summer months however, especially in the run up to and just after the summer holidays, you can expect not so much work to be about. Therefore take advantage of your free time and plan your summer break.

Of course long-term supply teaching is guaranteed all year round at rates of £150 per day through to £250 per day. Long–term supply teaching is a good option for those requiring the flexibility to be able to leave a job within a week or two’s notice. Furthermore part-time long-term work can suit teachers needing to miss days regularly.

2. Changes to AWR regulations mean supply teachers are getting less work

The Agency Worker Regulations (AWR) has been great news for some supply teachers. Under AWR, agency supply teachers are are entitled to equal rights, including the same pay, as permanent members of staff after just 12 weeks in the job. Prior to AWR experienced teachers could stay on low pay rates for months, even years. Schools had no obligation to pay more.

As of July 2016 we have observed the following. AWR regulations have introduced lots of negotiation into pat rates, even though schools are not now obliged to pay teachers what they were paid in their last role (see STPCD from 2013 – ). This change made much of AWR irrelevant in theory although we note that most schools still honour the old pay system simply to avoid alienating all teachers!

So yes time-sheet teachers are getting gross amounts far in excess of the old days, however a more over-zelous tax man is getting his hands on much more supply teacher pay too (see later article).


The bottom line is that agency teachers earn far more on average once they complete 12 weeks and above.

3. Long term supply teachers do not have to mark or prepare lessons

This is false. If a school is unfortunate enough to loose a teacher for let’s say 8 months (on a full time timetable) and books a replacement teacher, they will expect the replacement teacher to do what the outgoing teacher did.

If a replacement teacher doesn’t fully cover the job, who else will do it? Marking, preparation and attending parents’ evenings are part of long term supply teaching assignments. However, job security comes to supply teachers who teach well.

4. Supply teaching will impact my professional development

Whatever you do in life, if you stay in the same environment your working style can become insular.

Supply teaching provides you with opportunities to observe and learn from other teachers. You will be able to see how they teach, plan and assess and get ideas about the best ways of doing things.

Of course it goes without saying that supply teachers exposed to different age groups will benefit from a diversity of learning styles.

Indeed supply teaching provides a great path for newly qualified teachers to gain a broad range of experience.

5. Students will always be “challenging”

As with any complex system, and a classroom is certainly that; there are some things within your control and others outside of it. Arrive early to give yourself prep time. Try to actively teach the lesson objectives. Supply teachers who make the effort will be successful. Supply teachers who don’t… can fail spectacularly. Bring as much as you can into your area of control.

Of course if:

• Classes you have been assigned to have been taken by a string of agency supply teachers.
• Your students have just come in from a 3-hour exam and you have been tasked with teaching them some material on the “rock cycle”.
• Your school has no real behaviour for learning policy

Then even with good preparation you might struggle.

Fortunately there are not many schools like this. Most London schools now have a good idea of how to create a working atmosphere and keep students engaged.

And most are supportive of agency supply teachers… They have paid for you after all!

Things you can do to mitigate challenging situations are:

1) Learn a few names in the class as soon as you arrive.
2) Read through the work. Have an idea of the main objectives of the lesson and the main tasks.
3) Learn the terms associated with the schools behaviour for learning policy, i.e. “3 warning system”, “referral room”. Also the name of the person on duty, the name of the teacher you are replacing etc. Demonstrate familiarity with the school and your students will be surprised and more respectful.

6. It is mainly schools with students displaying challenging behavior that require supply teachers

In fact supply teachers are needed for a variety of reasons. To cover sickness, maternity cover, jury service and more. Recently we have seen an increased demand for supply teachers in independent and private schools.

Teaching in general is more stressful than it was in 2006. Stress is linked to sickness. We see a bigger turnover of teachers in stressful, urban, challenging environments, but if you are good at what you supply teach and you have references to say so, many doors will be open to you.

So don’t be put off by the myths. Get in touch and we will help you embark on your supply-teaching career. We look forward to meeting you.

Rick Smallwood, Founder teachweb supply teaching agency
Rick Smallwood, founder, teachweb

 About the author: Rick Smallwood is a former chemistry teacher and founder of leading London and the South East supply teacher agency teachweb. He has a proven track record of matching the right teachers to the right vacancy.

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