Substitute Teachers

Substitute teachers visit this site from all over the world!

I always enjoy looking at the Google Analytics for the page to see where my visitors come from, so if you’re visiting the site from America, or anywhere else where supply teachers are known as ‘subs’ or substitute teachers, then welcome!

Substitute Teachers Information and Resources

Information and Resources for Substitute Teachers

I initially wrote the content of this site with British supply teachers in mind, but looking at the analytics, I need to address some issues! Supply teachers the world over are finding information, support and resources here and I aim in the coming months to add information for you. For example, unless you are thinking of doing substitute teaching in England, then you will not find my links to supply agencies very useful. I will add agencies from the USA very soon. Have a great time looking round the site now, say hello on the forum, ‘Like’ us on Facebook, ‘Follow’ me on Twitter, and in time, I will tailor pages specifically for all you substitute teachers out there!

Much of the information for supply teachers will apply to substitute teachers as well. For instance, take a look at my top tips on learning children’s names, and you should find that the ideas cross the big pond / any other ocean as readily as a yacht.

Are you a substitute teacher? What are your experiences? I’m betting subbing (is that the right turn of phrase?!) is the same the world over!

Support from your supply teacher agency

by Sharon Wood

Thinking of doing supply work through an agency? There are lots of things to consider when choosing a supply teacher agency. You want to have the confidence in them to get you work, and that, once in schools working, you will have their support, should you need it. At SupplyBag.co.uk, the essential resource for supply teachers, we are currently trying to catalogue agencies here, that offer a good level of support to their teaching staff.

Good day or bad day, let your recruitment agency know!

Support for supply teachers is an area in which supply teaching agencies can differ enormously, just as the amount of support teachers demand of them will.

As is written elsewhere on here, you can build up a relationship with your point of contact at the agency, which can be of great benefit day-to-day. Supply teaching can be an isolating role, and it's nice to be able to call the agency to share your achievements and worries regarding the school day.

If ever you have a problem in a school, your supply teacher agency must be notified immediately. Then your teaching union. Your agency should have set, tried and tested procedures to work through in all instances, and, knowing the school and yourself, is best placed to advise you on how to proceed. Many teaching agencies, and most teaching unions provide legal support.

Feedback about your supply work

by Sharon Wood

SupplyBag.co.uk offers information and support to supply teachers through this website and its form. Here, we are discussing supply teacher agencies, and how important it is to receive feedback from them.

Teacher supply and recruitment agencies need to ensure a good working relationship with schools and teachers alike. They benefit greatly from referrals on both sides. Keeping lines of communication open with both schools and teachers helps to cement their relationship.

Monitoring placements is an essential part of the service agencies offer to schools and to teachers. They routinely call schools to ask for feedback following a placement, so try to make sure that the feedback about your supply work is filtered down to you.

Feedback information for supply teachers

Be a reflective supply teacher, always ask for feedback.

A word of warning: Don't be surprised if the feedback isn't what you expected! Schools are extremely busy places, with some extremely busy people in them. You can walk in, spend a day doing wonderful work, and walk out again not having seen another living soul above the age of 8! You may have only met the secretary, a dinner supervisor, or a TA, new to the job; it could be a few days before the class teacher is back in the classroom and sees your diligent marking and hears the children's excited babbling about you! Is there any wonder that the feedback from an exhilarating day comes back pretty much neutral? Don't be disheartened.

Call Times on Supply Teaching Assignments

by Sharon Wood

Supply teachers, whether working through supply teacher recruitment agencies, or working directly with schools, should expect early morning calls to work. Will the calls come at set times? How late will they come? Should a supply teacher call an agency and ask for work?

Being Called

Be prepared to be called at any time of day or night! It is reasonable to expect calls from your agencies anytime from 6:00am asking you to work that day.

Call Times on Supply Teaching Assignments

A call to work that day may come as late as 11:30am too, as teachers (slaves to the job that they are!) will often turn up for work when they really should be at home with Ibuprofen and TLC!

Times in the evenings that you will be called largely depends on your agency. Some would rather call you at 10pm, following a conversation with a school's supply teacher / cover co-ordinator and give you a few hours notice about the work the next day than wait until the morning.

Calling Them

An awkward one to begin with. Do you call your agency and let them know you are free today, Friday, even though on Monday morning you called them to let them know you were free all week?
Yes! Especially if they know you work through more than one agency, they will not assume status quo after a few days.
If you are unavailable for supply, do let the agency know. If you're already booked, and cannot make it, let them know as early as possible in the morning, so they can sort out someone else to teach.

More reading: Early Morning Calls – Supply Teaching by Sarah Cruickshank

What's the earliest / latest call you've had with an offer of work? Let us know in the comments below!

Questions to ask a potential supply teacher agency

Some supply teachers choose to approach schools directly and ask them for supply work. Others, especially in more built-up areas, work through agencies. Indeed, many schools will only work with agency teachers, so you may not have a choice! You do have to have confidence in your supply teacher agency however. Interview them, as much as they will interview you. You wouldn’t dream of accepting a long-term position in a school you had never visited before, and similarly, you should take care when signing up to an agency.

Look for a Quality Mark ‘Supporting quality supply teaching’ awarded by the Department for Education and Skills. However, do not be put off if an agency does not hold this award, it does cost to apply for one.

Rather than feel as though you’re choosing an agency, it may feel like they are actually choosing you. You may have to go through an interview process, will certainly have to have a CRB Check done, your QTS/qualifications/List 99 and DfE number verified, filed a medical report, and had professional references followed up. This can often be quite daunting, but they are all quite straightforward, and confidential, processes.

Many agencies provide optional Pension and Holiday Savings schemes. Ask if you are interested.
Check how the agency pays. Some pay weekly, while others monthly, in arrears too.

Questions to ask a potential supply teacher agency

Making the right choice about a supply teacher recruitment agency means asking the right questions.

Building a relationship

Many supply teachers find that the more they keep in touch with their agency, the more work is offered to them. It is not simply a case of your agency going through an alphabetical list of supply teachers in a morning, giving each a call until they find someone in the vicinity who is available to work. They need to maintain a good relationship with the schools, by offering quality, enthusiastic teachers… show that you are by calling. Call them to tell them you particularly enjoyed your time at Nitsville Juniors today, and, given positive feedback from the Head at Nitsville, they are more likely to match you up next time there’s work available.

Working through an agency generally means that you are responsible for your time sheets, both getting them authorised by schools, and getting them to the agency at the end of the week in order to be paid.

Tax and National Insurance contributions are deducted from your wage by your agency. If you work with more than one agency, you may have to nominate one as your main source of income for tax purposes. It is a good idea to give HM Customs and Excise a call soon after the end of the tax year and ask them to check through your tax details.

Early Morning Calls – Supply Teaching

7.30am, the phone rings, do you:

  • Answer within 2 rings, you’ve been up washed, suited and booted with a bag packed since 7 anyway?
  • Stick your hand out of a nice, warm bed, grunt a greeting, then run around like a headless chicken getting yourself sorted?
  • Put the pillow over your head and pretend the phone isn’t ringing, then feel guilty for the whole day … should you have picked it up?
  • You unplugged the phone last night, so you know it won't ring?
  • You made the decision not to take early morning calls, so you have nothing to worry about?

As a supply teacher, you are a business, you may have an outside agency that markets you, or you might be doing that yourself, but whether or not to take early morning calls is a business decision that you must make.

Early Morning Calls - Supply Teaching

Sarah helps us learn how to arrive for a day's supply teaching sunny side up!

Early in my supply career, I decided that I wasn’t going to take early calls, I have a young son and a partner who works away from home, so that 7.30 call meant having to find someone to do the school runs and getting 2 people sorted. I let all my schools know that I couldn’t take early calls and they all respected that decision. Very occasionally, a school does call to ask if I could possibly go in … if I say ‘no’, they aren’t surprised, and if I say ‘yes’, they know I’m doing them a big favour and my stock rises a few points. Either way, this is a win-win situation for me and I don’t have to feel guilty about turning people down.
If you do decide to take early calls you MUST be ORGANISED, follow these tips to make the process as painless as possible:

  • Let your agencies and schools know that you will take early calls (either every day, or on certain days.)
  • Put your clothes out ready the night before.
  • Make a packed lunch the night before, or have things that you can grab easily if a call comes.
  • Have a bag packed with all your supply resources (see the article “What’s In Your Supply Bag?”)
  • Have a GPS or a good street atlas, so you can find your way.
  • Have a pad and pen by the phone to take down details of the school and your day.
  • Get up early and be washed, suited, booted and ready to go.
  • Set a time after which you’re not going to stay rooted to the spot, waiting for a call. Once that time comes, change out of your working clothes and enjoy a free day.
Anyone else waiting for a call? #supplychat Click To Tweet

In the final analysis, the early morning call question is a simple yes/no one and as long as you make the decision, let every one know what it is and be consistent about your response to requests you’ll never have to feel guilty about a lie-in again!!!!

Article submitted by Sarah Cruickshank, Education Writer and Supply Teacher.

Thinking About Supply Work

Thinking about supply work?

Here are some basic 'fors', 'againsts', and ways in to supply teaching. Wherever you are in your teaching career, the leap into supply work is a decision not to be taken lightly. (See below for source of original article from 2002 – with permission.)

Thinking about Supply Work

Many teachers have found that supply teaching suits their individual needs. However, it is important to seriously consider all the implications before giving up the security of, or the idea of, a permanent contract.

Your union is always a good point of reference for advice and guidance with regards to the impact of such a move on your status, pension, etc. In the meantime, here is helpful as some background information.

It has been reported that schools spend £600 million a year on supply staff*. It has long been recognised that supply teachers are a natural port of call for schools in crisis – most notably to cover for absent teachers at short notice. In December 2001, Ofsted reported that:

A number of schools gave supply teachers too little information about pupils' backgrounds, policies, procedures, etc and made little use of the work produced in their lessons.
That the number of supply teachers in schools increased from 12,200 in 1995 to 20,000 in 2001.
That three times more work permits had been issued to teachers from outside the EU in 2001 compared to 2000.

What is expected of a supply teacher?

To teach in a maintained school in England it is generally necessary to hold Qualified Teaching Status (QTS) and a current DBS Certificate.

Many supply teachers will find themselves teaching in more than one school, possibly within the same week, sometimes in the same day, and needing to become aware of the different way each institution will work.

However, they will still be expected to:

    • Keep up to date with developments in the curriculum in general, and their subject speciality in particular.
    • Effectively teach and supervise classes according to the guidelines of each school.
    • Be ready to teach from ready-prepared lessons, or work from their own material.
    • Mark work according to the school they are in – e.g. primary or secondary – before leaving at the end of the day.
    • Maintain professional standards of dress and behaviour.
    • Be prepared to carry out reasonable requests from the headteacher.

It is estimated that around 40% of supply teachers are ‘short termers’ in that they move from full time to supply and back to full time.

Why become a supply teacher?

Those who do enter the supply teaching arena do so for a number of reasons:

  • Greater flexibility.
  • Experiencing the benefit of being in the classroom without the same responsibility of meetings, paperwork, test/exam grades, Ofsted, etc.
  • Having a choice in which schools to teach as a supply teacher.
  • Gaining an insight into those schools they would like to teach in if a permanent position became available.
  • Furthering professional development from teaching a variety of pupils from different backgrounds within schools having varying management approaches and educational philosophies.

Are there any disadvantages?

However, there are a number of disadvantages of supply work which can emanate from this almost 'nomadic' lifestyle. These include:

  • The uncertainty of work, and being only paid for the teaching they do as there is no sick or holiday pay, although a number of agencies now account for these within the amount they pay.
  • Missing out on in-service training.
  • Difficulty in developing relationships with pupils and staff.
  • Experiencing a lower level of regard from pupils, staff, parents and inspectors.
  • Needing to carry an ‘office’ around with them.
  • The inconsistent ways in which they are briefed and given information about what to expect in relation to pupils and the school.
  • Experiencing discipline problems in class.
  • Poor access to resources.
  • Difficulties when ‘cover work’ is not left.
  • Feeling generally unsupported in schools.
  • The daily rate for suply work can vary significantly between £60 and £200 per day depending on the supply agency the teacher is working for.
  • Possibility of missing out on pension rights and experiencing difficulty in crossing the threshold.
  • Variations in the amount that agencies will take from a day’s pay.
  • The likelihood of any school offering a temporary/permanent contract being charged an ‘introduction’ fee by the supply agency that placed the teacher in the school – and this can amount to a significant sum of money.
  • Teachers working for supply agencies are not employees of the LEA or school, therefore are not entitled to receive rates of pay in accordance with the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document, or entitled to pay in to the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

How to enter the 'world' of supply teaching work

There are a number of routes for teachers who want to embark on supply work:

  • A supply agency will find work for the teachers registered with it so the individual can wait for the telephone call. However, as noted above, rates of pay vary considerably. Agencies can be the first call for schools that are looking for long term cover.
  • An LEA, which operates a ‘pool’ of supply teachers, will pay according to the national pay scale. Individuals in this situation also have the advantage of choosing to opt into the teachers’ ‘superannuation’ pension scheme. However, some LEAs have ceased to maintain a supply ‘pool’, with a number considering joining together to form their own supply agencies.
  • Directly circulating CVs and covering letters to schools within their area. Schools do build up a list of ‘tried and tested’ supply teachers that they will contact first to check availability.
  • A number of supply teachers, depending on their needs, will use a combination of LEA, agency, and direct school contact.

Is there any regulation of supply teaching?

There is little regulation of the supply work industry. However:

  • Generally speaking, supply agencies are conscientious in interviewing, and running appropriate checks on teachers applying to register with them.
  • Some join the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and are quality audited, and / or APSCo's Compliance+ scheme, demonstrating a quality standard. These aim to encourage minimum standards for working with school and teachers, recruiting, interviewing, and staff management. They are voluntary, paid-for schemes.
  • However, there are calls for the supply industry to be more formally regulated which would include on-going professional development opportunities for supply teachers.

Supply Teacher Pensions

Also, supply teachers working for a supply agency cannot normally pay superannuation contributions. Supply teaching, like part-time teaching, does not automatically qualify for a pension scheme. Under the Government's Workplace Pensions scheme, supply teachers will be offered the ability to pay into a pension, but this is being rolled out over a few years, and not all agencies have had their deadlines allotted. 

In order to be pensionable, it is necessary for a supply teacher, who is working directly for a school or LEA, to elect for superannuation contributions to be deducted from his/her salary.

It is also important for supply teachers who do pay superannuation, to keep a comprehensive record of the schools they have worked in, just in case there is any later questioning of their pensionable service.

The pensions department of your union, as well as the Teachers' Pension Agency will be able to provide advice and guidance.

Supply Teaching Insurance

Many things can happen in schools, ranging from damage to personal property to injury. Mostly these will be accidental or unintentional, however it is important for a supply teacher to be aware of what insurance cover they have, and who is responsible for providing it – the school, the LEA, the supply agency, etc.

Again your union will be best placed to advise you.

Original text from here, edited as out of date.

* I am currently trying to confirm the latest figures on this. I suspect that it is now considerably less due to the increased numbers of TAs/HLTAs/CSs covering lessons.