by Sharon Wood
What does a supply teacher agency do?
Supply teaching agencies provide daily, short, medium and long term/permanent staff to schools. They offer schools a flexible workforce. Agencies have in place processes which ensure they are providing schools with good quality teaching staff committed to maintaining and indeed helping to raise standards.
Supply teachers should be provided with a professional, friendly and efficient service from their agency. The agency should offer support and advice in respect to a supply teacher's continuing professional development. An agency will ensure that supply teachers have DBS Certificates and will probably charge them personally for this.
Agencies should as far as possible match the personal strengths and experience of supply teachers with the requirements of their schools. Agencies should monitor placements in order to maintain compatibility and to offer support to both the schools and the supply staff alike.
Should I start doing supply work through a supply teacher agency?
The answer to this question often depends on which area of the country you live in. Some Local Authorities have outsourced their 'supply list' to one or more supply teaching agencies, and have made it a requirement that schools recruit supply staff through these agencies. Many teachers however, have gained work going to schools or Local Authorities directly. See here for more information and advice on taking this route.
Working through an agency provides teachers with a number of benefits. In no particular order:
You are not the main point of contact for schools. This is great for if you, like I, sound grotty at 7am, it is a member of staff at the agency a supply co-ordinator will be speaking to, not you!
More frequent payment of wages. Many agencies pay weekly for the work carried out and direct into your account, as opposed to, for example, my Local Authority who pay a month in arrears. This is often invaluable with regards to the many queries that are made over time sheets, disputes over days worked should not be taking place six weeks after the event!
Support and feedback. As said earlier, agencies monitor placements, making calls to the schools regularly to ask for feedback on the staff they supplied. They will then contact you to provide a morale boost! Many agencies also offer support with aspects of your work such as professional relationship problems and continuing professional development. In the forum, Minnie wrote:
What is good about them?
They find me work.
They are friendly and chatty when I've had a great day.
They are sympathetic and listen when I've had a bad day.
They don't mind if I don't want to go back to a school.
They pass on any compliments/good reports about me they get, sometimes even phoning just to tell me.
The other side of the coin:
Some schools do not use agency staff. Of the schools you would like to work in, which of them use agencies, and can you find out which agencies they prefer to work with?
As agencies are often private limited companies, they have to make their profit from somewhere. It is often through a cut of the teacher's wage. Fair enough, they found you the work, you didn't spend another day watching Richard and Judy repeats, but be careful, rates of pay from agencies vary considerably. Some pay to scale (they charge the school above scale), but then I've heard of teachers on M6 being paid an unqualified rate.
You have to be a pest sometimes! Calling your agency frequently helps to maintain a positive working relationship with them, and helps to make sure you are in the forefront of their mind when your favourite school calls.
Less favourable quotes from the forum (to balance out Minnie's!):
They said they had enough supply to keep me working virtually full-time, and I've had 3 days this term!
They sent me to a school 45 minutes away, and when I got there, I'd been doubly booked!
I worked for £x through my agency, but had a wage from one school of considerably less. The school said that it was agreed with my agency, but it was never agreed with myself!
Click here to find a list of questions to ask any potential agency.