Review of "Supply Teaching"
Back after a long absence - trying to get back into reviewing!
I have been doing supply teaching for over a year now. I thought I’d write about my experiences and give some advice to those who might be thinking of supply work.BACKGROUND:
I trained to be a teacher in 2006-7. I had never wanted to be a teacher, it was never something I always dreamed of being. I had always planned to be a lawyer. However, after studying History at university I knew that I wanted to work with the subject. I went on to do a Masters in museum studies and thought seriously about working in that field but the money was really bad and there were a lot of people trying to get very few jobs. I took a year out to think and to earn some money. The ex-Mr Tart wanted to go into teaching (he was also a historian) and I thought that seeing as I wanted to work in History there were worse things I could do. Not a particularly promising and enthusiastic start I’ll admit but it does get better!As soon as I started my PGCE I knew that I’d made the right decision. My passion for my subject was never in questioned but I was really happy to realise that I loved working with young people. It was a great year. Jobs for the following September were few and far between, especially in the south-west where I live, so I took a maternity cover for a year.
Although I knew that the job would only be for a year I also knew that it would get my NQT year done and I’d be fully qualified by the end of it. The school was brilliant and I had a fantastic Head of Department who helped me get through my first year. It confirmed my belief that I had made the right career choice.Throughout that year I applied for jobs. I had a couple of interviews but nothing came of them. The south-west is saturated with History teachers and of course fewer are leaving jobs now because of the dreaded (cue whiny voice) ‘current economic climate’. Having no job meant going into supply teaching, something I dreaded but knew was a necessity.
The first thing you need to do when thinking of supply teaching is to join an agency. I was referred to an agency by the school that I worked in, in my first year, My old school said they were good and they were also their first choice so I hoped I might get some days working back there as I loved working there.My agency is Teaching Personnel. They have offices throughout the UK and I’ve found them pretty good. To start with they phoned me as I’d been recommended by my old school. Over the phone my they asked me lots about my education and work history. We then arranged for me to go to their offices to register properly and meet my personal consultant. My consultant and I had a long chat about what sort of work I wanted and in what schools. She took some more details and photocopied my ID and arranged for a new CRB check. We also discussed payments. They offered me a daily rate which I was happy with so I signed the contract. I was made to feel very comfortable with the whole process and my consultant was lovely. After the meeting they then prepared a CV for me based on the information I’d given, which would then be used to send to schools who were looking for people.
BOOKINGS:Once sign up is complete the waiting game begins. For the first few weeks in September I set my alarm for 7, got ready for work and waited for the phone to ring…..it didn’t. September is not a good time for supply work because everyone is making a concerted effort not to be ill in the first few weeks of term. However, eventually people got ill and the phone did ring. There are two ways that bookings happen. Sometimes schools know that they’ll need someone in advance so the agency books you in advance which is better because at least then I can plan my day around working. Sometimes I’ll get a text message asking me to call about a particular booking. This gets sent out to lots of people so it pays to be quick with the call back. At other times they phone but I’m often in work and again they will have phoned others as well so you can miss out.
The other way they book you is in the morning when schools phone round agencies after someone calls in sick. This is why I still get up early and get ready for work as they’ll often be a last minute phone call.Your bookings are all recorded on your online diary. You log in through their website and can see bookings, timesheets and payslips. The agency also send a confirmation e-mail whenever you get a booking which tells you the school’s address and contact name at the school.
ADVANTAGES:Although supply work isn’t what I really want to be doing there are some advantages to it. The first is that you generally don’t have to worry about planning and marking (although you will have to mark if you are at a primary school and plan and mark if you have a longer term supply job). As a teacher this can take up a huge amount of time. When on a day’s supply the work will generally have been set and you just have to tell the class what it is.
Another good thing about supply work is that if you really don’t like a school you can ask not to be sent there again. If you are employed permanently by a school you can’t just leave after a day if you don’t like it! You can technically walk out of a supply job at any time of the day but I never would as I’m pretty sure the agency would have doubts about using me in the future.You also get to see a wide variety of schools. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how different schools can be as it’s helped me make decisions about where I want to end up teaching. In the past year I’ve taught in comprehensive schools, faith schools, special needs schools and primary schools.
The money for supply teaching is pretty good as well. I haven’t felt like I’ve gone without in comparison to when I was working full time in a school.The best thing for me about supply teaching is that you can take days off whenever you want. It is so nice to be able to take a long weekend or to take a holiday in term time when the prices are cheaper! It’s one of the major annoyances of being a teacher that holidays are restricted to the most expensive times. I’ve taken full advantage of this as I figure this could be my last chance to take cheap holidays for the next 30 years!! The problem with this is that you don’t get paid for those days and you’re obviously spending money if you are on holiday so you can end up doubly poor!
There is also the chance that supply may lead to something more permanent. Last year I managed to get a three day per week maternity cover position in the History department of a school through my agency. Although this meant planning and marking it was me properly teaching and not just covering, and that led to a higher daily rate which I was very happy about! It also meant that I have been able to keep up my teaching skills in my subject and have been able to get to know the students rather than just seeing them for one day. When schools need someone in a hurry to cover a long period (such as illness or maternity) they’ll often use supply rather than advertise. Once a school knows you there’s a much better chance of you getting any permanent job that may come up.DISADVANTAGES:
Supply teaching isn’t my ideal job, it does have many disadvantages. The main one for me is the behaviour of some of the children. Some of the schools I’ve worked in have been a little ‘challenging’! As soon as pupils see that their regular teacher isn’t there they think ‘supply – great we can mess about’. I don’t really blame them as I did the same when I was in school. The good thing is that permanent teachers know this. When I worked full time I never set anything vital for a supply lesson (unless it was an exam class) because I knew that half of them wouldn’t make the effort needed to do the work if they were taken by a supply teacher. I haven’t had any behaviour that’s been too dreadful but you learn to be thick skinned when you teach! I’m sometimes happy if I manage to keep some of the classes inside the classroom! The constant behaviour issues can get you down a bit. It’s not that I’ve had a pupil threaten me and I don’t get sworn at too often but it’s the constant refusal to do work and constant low level behaviour issues that grate on you. It does mean, however, that my classroom management skills have been honed and this can only be a good thing for my future career.Another big problem is that you don’t get paid over the holidays at all. It’s not such an issue over half term but over the summer holidays I did begin to struggle. Siz weeks without money is a long time, especially as September is slow (I only got one day of work for the whole of September). I knew this was coming and made sure that I put money by when I was working but it’s still a huge problem. Some people get other work over the summer but at the moment any work is hard to come by! Also, one of the advantages of teaching is the holidays, which makes me reluctant to give them up! Your weekly pay does supposedly include ‘holiday pay’ but this doesn’t work like temping agencies’ holiday pay which builds up and is claimable as a lump sum. Supply teaching holiday pay is included in your normal paycheque.
Being in a different school every day means that you lose out on the friendships and working relationships with colleagues. I’ve been lucky, having three days a week in the same school last year but at other schools you find that you eat alone in the staffroom (sob…sob…!). I do miss that aspect of the job. It was nice to go to Christmas dos and take part in staff outings and these just aren’t really available as a supply teacher. Some of the teachers in schools do go out of their way to make you feel welcome and no one is unfriendly, it’s just that you’re not in a place long enough to really get to know people.Supply teaching can also look bad on your CV (in my opinion). Last year I didn’t have any interviews despite applying for quite a few jobs. I put this down partly to my CV not looking that great (one year in one school and then supply work). However, there are ways to make supply work look positive and this year Mr Tart helped me to restructure my application letter and I had two interviews within two days of each other! To talk up the supply work it’s a good idea to reference the variety of behaviour management skills as well as the variety of subjects you’ve taught.
ADVICE:If you’re thinking of supply teaching or you’re left no choice like me then the best advice I can give you is to not let it get to you. Let the bad days wash over you and think that at the end of the day you can go home with the extra money earned. Also make sure that you go with a good agency, I’ve heard some bad reports of other agencies but I’ve been really happy with Teaching Personnel. Make sure that you take advantage of being supply rather than a full time teacher, take the odd long weekend and take comfort in the thought of the others sitting in the staff room. Also make sure that you put a little by every week to tide you over the summer.
CONCLUSION:I find supply teaching very much a mixed bag. There are aspects that really appeal to me like little planning and marking and not having to stay in a school that I dislike. The ability to have long weekends and cheaper holidays is great. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to do it long term. Supply teaching gets me down at times. The problem is that I’m a good teacher (one with a lot still to learn, but good all the same!). I worry that I’ll become disillusioned and that supply long term will mean I loose some of my teaching skills.
I’ve recently got a job back at the school that I worked in, in the first year. It’s another maternity cover but I loved working there so much that I jumped at the opportunity. I was actually offered the job at the school I had one of the interviews at as well but I turned it down because it was part time. The interview did reassure me that it is possible to get a job (I was loosing faith after last year). I’m now really looking forward to having a proper job again, one where I can do planning and marking, get to know the pupils and get paid over the holidays!!
Product Information : Supply Teaching
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Listed on Ciao since: 06/11/2009