Making the most of your education recruitment consultant

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.

Working with your teaching agency, dotting the 'i's and crossing the 't's together.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:

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.

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.