Working as a supply teacher whether
in a school that you are used to or in a school that is through an agency your
responsibilities are not always made clear apart from the obvious duties of
teaching the class and making sure that safeguarding guidelines are followed to
the letter. Although some schools have policies on what they expect from a
supply teacher many do not but if you want to be offered work on a regular
basis it is important that you not only create the right impression when you
first start but also fulfil the duties expected of you in that particular
Many teachers whose classes you
cover will set work for the children to do and expect this to be carried out as
per their guidance. This is especially true with older pupils who often have a
fixed curriculum to cover in a given timeframe. Should this be the case it is
important that the supply teacher carries out the teacher’s instructions as much
as possible. At the end of the day a brief note to the teacher outlining how the
day went is a valuable way to communicate.
There may be times when a supply teacher is
needed to cover an unexpected absence and in this case work may not have been
set so it is a wise move to have lessons prepared that can be adapted to the
age group you are teaching. It is essential that all work is marked according
to the school’s marking policy checking with a senior member of staff if anything
is not clear.
During your career as a teacher
you may find yourself in the position, either because you are between jobs or
because it fits in better with family life considering working as a supply
It is true that there are many
advantages to the flexible working patterns that come hand in hand with supply
teaching. For instance, if you have young children at primary school you can be
free to attend their school events without having to negotiate time off work.
It also enables you to fit work commitments around other family
responsibilities such as caring for an elderly relative.
Many schools employ supply
teachers to cover planned absences of their teaching staff which is generally
better for a supply teacher as you may know in advance the year group you will
be teaching and the subjects you will be required to teach. This is for some
more suitable than having an early morning call to cover absence due to teacher
illness however If unplanned cover is not suitable for you this can be made
clear when you register as a supply teacher.
Although most teachers will leave
planning and resources it is always good to be well prepared and have a
selection of open ended teaching resources with you that can be adapted to the
age group that you are required to teach.
teachers choose to work as a supply teacher either because it fits in better
with their family life especially if they have young children or are caring for
an elderly relative, or because they have just moved into a new area and are
unfamiliar with the schools in the new area.
advantages of the flexible working patterns that come hand in hand with supply
teaching suit many teachers. Should you have children of your own at school you
will be free to attend their school events without having to negotiate time off
work a difficult situation that many teachers face.
will employ supply teachers to cover planned absence of teaching staff. In this
case you may know in advance the year group you will be teaching and the subjects
you will be required to teach. This is usually easier than having an early
morning call to cover absence due to teacher illness. If unplanned cover is not
suitable for you this can be made clear when you visit schools to promote
One of the
main advantages of working as a supply teacher is that the administrative tasks
involved in contract teaching is not expected of a supply teacher. Setting and
marking of work is required and possibly some short-term assessments but report
writing and data collection is not usually part of a supply teachers remit.
think that working as a supply teacher involves the same skills whether you are
working in a small rural school or in a large urban primary but you would be
mistaken as the role varies greatly with some supply teachers preferring one
over the other.
If you are
asked to do supply teaching in a larger school the first difference you may
encounter is when you arrive at school finding your way around the building. If
you are new to the school this can be quite daunting and often requires help
from other members of staff until you become familiar with the layout although the
children are often helpful in this situation.
of staff in a large school may make it difficult to remember names and roles
but always make sure you know the Head Teacher’s name and who you need to
approach if you have any concerns. If the class teacher is in school when you
are covering their class, it is easier as they will be able to assist you when
you are familiarising yourself with the classroom and the class routines.
times if you are not on duty you may decide to visit the staffroom. Be aware
that in some schools, certain seats and cups are used by some members of staff
who do not take kindly to supply teachers using them, so check first – it can stop
a frosty atmosphere in the staffroom.
As a teacher
you should always try and leave your classroom so that someone else could come
in and teach if they need to. You should have lesson plans for at least the
next week ahead but ideally rough plans taking you up to the next half term.
You may not always know if you are going to have to have time off so it’s
important to prepare and be organised. If you do know that you are going to
have to have time off then you can get work prepared to leave for a supply
teacher. Ideally try and have a chat with the supply teacher so you can talk
over your lesson plans and explain what you want them to do. This also gives
them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.
You may also
want to give them an overview of the class such as if there are any pupils they
need to keep an eye on or any that may need extra support.
If you need
them to mark work then make sure you ask them to do this. If it is a supply
teacher that has not worked in your school before it can be useful to write
them a quick list of useful information such as break times, names of other
teachers that teach that year group or subject and details of the teaching
assistant who will be working with them.