Working with your teaching agency – By Sharon Wood
In this article, we will look at how to make the most of your relationship with your supply teacher recruitment agency.
Supply teaching agencies are now the primary channel for most supply teachers to gain work through. The rise in their presence and usage over the last ten years has been dramatic.
Be clear about what you want from your consultant, your experience, and your intentions.
From your very first communications with them, through an email submission form on their website, or perhaps a phone call, the consultants will be forming an opinion of you. A good education recruitment consultant will want to get to know their candidates professionally as well as they can, so as to match you to schools more successfully. Be professional, be polite, be amiable, be open to suggestion and flexible. Be honest about your requirements, your availability and your ability to travel distances.
An agency many have many hundreds of staff on their register. Don’t let yourself slip under the radar. Keep them up to date with what you are doing, that you are available to work next week, that you particularly enjoyed working in School X, and now that you have had a taster of Year 3, you would like to perhaps try a Year 2 class to broaden your experiences and opportunities.
Ask what the recruitment agency operating hours are, and find out when is the best time to call for chats about upcoming work and to get feedback on completed assignments. Your consultant will often work longer hours than you do, and be contracted to work through the holidays too. They often have experience of teaching themselves and may deliver CPD courses accordingly. Be respectful and accept that you may be able to learn a lot from them, they are not simply a middle-man with a stereotypical call centre mentality as they are all too often portrayed.
Take every opportunity offered to you by your agency. Most will offer CPD courses. Some will recommend websites to visit, and other resources. Many now are active on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook – join them and meet other supply teachers there. Supply teaching can be an isolating career move, and most agencies recognise this and offer meets such as quiz nights and end of term drinks. Check that your potential agency supports National Supply Teacher Week in June each year too, the aims of which can be found here at The Supply Teacher e-zine: http://www.thesupplyteacher.com/national-supply-teacher-week.
Be open to suggestion and criticism. For example, as supply for secondary school supply teachers outstrips demand, it may be suggested that in order to gain more work, a secondary teacher makes the transition to primary. Unfortunately, consultants are sometimes called upon by schools to, or out of necessity need to broach a difficult subject with candidates. Less than positive feedback may have been received from a school and it is in your interests as well as your consultants, to address the issue. Common examples are inappropriate conversations with students, poor personal hygiene, lack of curriculum knowledge, poor marking, poor behaviour management and use of mobile phones in school time.
Remember, it is in your consultant’s interests to keep you happily employed, as it is in your interests to maintain a good working relationship with your consultant. Good supply teachers are harder to recruit and retain than you would expect, so the recruiter will work hard to place and retain you. Having said that, while you are on an assignment with them, you are representing their company, and their quality of staffing supply, and they will not want to send you on assignment if they do not trust that you will represent them adequately.