How to Become a Supply Teacher

Supply teachers are as important to the education system as permanent teachers, and in recent times, their availability to cover the role of a full-time teacher has been crucial to maintaining normal school life. With the pandemic creating a demand for more supply teachers, now is a good time to get into a teaching profession that offers flexibility as well as job satisfaction. In this blog post, we will go through what a supply teacher does and how to become a supply teacher in the UK.

What is a Supply Teacher?

A supply teacher works at a school temporarily in the absence of a permanent teacher. Supply teachers can be working on a day to day basis at multiple schools or can provide long term cover in one school for a teacher on leave, for example when covering for maternity leave. The flexibility of supply teaching is one of the desirable benefits that attract both experienced and newly qualified teachers.

The job can be a challenge as supply teachers have to be adaptable to each school they are hired to work in. Every day may require a different set of skills as you may be called to teach year 7 pupils one day and year 10 students the next day. Since each school has their teaching processes, being able to adapt quickly is useful. In addition, you’ll need to be organised and capable of working independently.

What Are The Benefits of Supply Teaching?

Supply teaching has a list of benefits that will appeal to a teacher who enjoys being in the classroom without the added duties that come with permanent teaching. Some of the benefits include:

  • Flexible Work Schedule – Being able to work to a schedule that suits you means greater freedom to create a better work-life balance. You get to say yes to the jobs that fit in with your way of life. This type of freedom is ideal for someone returning to teaching after a leave of absence or perhaps a retired teacher who isn’t quite ready to leave the classroom and would like to continue working. Supply teaching works if you have other responsibilities or commitments because you can accept the assignments that align with your lifestyle.
  • Less Workload – Supply teaching lets you enjoy hands-on teaching without having to deal with the extra tasks associated with being a permanent teacher. Marking homework and attending parents’ evenings are a few of the jobs you don’t have to deal with as a supply teacher.
  • Variety – Unlike a permanent teacher who could spend years at one school, as a supply teacher, you will get to experience a variety of different school environments, meet new teachers and pupils and be exposed to many different teaching styles along the way. Every day is fresh and exciting with a new challenge. If you welcome this kind of work-life, then supply teaching could be for you.
  • Build Experience – Teaching in many different schools is an excellent way to gain experience. You will be exposed to many different teaching styles and many ways to manage a classroom that you can add to your repertoire. The experiences will ultimately help you to decide whether you would like to go on to permanent teaching.

How To Become a Supply Teacher?

Although the role of a supply teacher is a popular choice for many educators, getting started can be daunting when you are unsure of the first step. You’ll need to make sure you have a few things in order before you embark on your new and exciting career. Here are a few things you’ll need to know to become a supply teacher.

Be Sure to Have The Right Qualifications

To work as a supply teacher in the majority of primary, secondary and special schools in the UK, you’ll need a degree and you’ll need to have Qualified Teacher Status or QTS. If you already hold a degree, you can gain QTS with a post-graduate university-led teacher training program also called ITT (Initial Teacher Training). You will also gain a PGCE (Post Graduate Certificate in Education) upon completion. To achieve full teacher status, you will need to complete two years as an ECT ( Early Careers Teacher, formally known as an NQT) If you don’t have a degree yet, you can gain your QTS as a part of an undergraduate teacher training degree. A Bachelor of Arts (BA), a Bachelor of Education (BEd) or a Bachelor of Science (BSc) all allow you to go on to train for qualified teacher status. Experienced teachers without QTS (perhaps you qualified outside of the UK) may be able to attain qualified teacher status by completing a 12-week assessment only programme. You can find out more information about gaining QTS here.

Register With The Right Agency

Getting registered with the right teacher recruitment agency is an important factor in how much you’ll enjoy your supply teaching experience. A good agency will provide you with a consultant to help you to find the best position to suit you and your skills. Some teacher recruitment agencies support registered members with ongoing training opportunities and even teaching resources.
Here are some other things to consider when registering with a teacher recruitment agency:

DBS Checks

When you have registered with a teaching agency, you need to present them with your degrees and certifications along with a copy of your enhanced DBS. It’s best to register for the DBS Update Service which allows applicants to keep their DBS certificate up-to-date and allows all of the schools who hire you to check the validity of your DBS certificate online. The service costs £13 per year.
As a part of the vetting process of the teacher recruitment agency, you will need to provide two independent, written references as well as documents for identity checks.

Tax Codes

As a supply teacher registered with an agency, you will most likely pay tax through the Pay As You Earn system or PAYE. It’s important to know your tax codes to ensure you pay the correct amount of tax. If you have been previously employed, you can give the agency your P45 so they can allocate a tax code to you according to HMRC rules. If this is your first job, you’ll have to complete a New Starter Form (previously called a P46) form which allows the correct amount of tax to be deducted and explains to HMRC why you don’t have a P45.

The way you are paid can vary depending on the agency. Some agencies will invoice the school for the hours of work completed by the supply teacher, then pay the teacher after making deductions for their services as well as tax and National Insurance purposes. Other agencies arrange for the school to pay the supply teacher directly. In these circumstances, you may be responsible for making your own tax contributions. You can find out more about tax for supply teaching staff here.

Get Mentally Prepared

Being a supply teacher requires organisational skills and the ability to work independently in a new environment. You could be assigned work in multiple schools with different year groups so it’ll be essential to stay organised. Brush up on your classroom management skills as you’ll need to gain the trust and respect of every new class of pupils you teach. Be confident and set expectations early on with regards to following class rules and what is expected of the students in the school according to school policies.
Resilience is necessary for a supply teacher as you may experience instances of challenging behaviour in the variety of schools you will get to work at.

Helpful Tips For New Supply Teachers

Once you’ve joined an agency and have received your first supply teaching role, you may need a few helpful hints to get you started. Here are a few things to note for your first day on the job.

  • Prepare a backup lesson plan – In many cases, the supply teacher will be teaching a lesson planned out by the permanent teacher but in some instances, there may be no preplanned lesson so it is best to be prepared. Check this out beforehand where possible.
  • Arrive early – This gives you plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the location of the classroom you’ll be working in, the staff room and toilet facilities as well as stock rooms and other useful areas. Use this time to talk to other teachers or teaching assistants who can offer information about life as a teacher in the school.
  • Get to know the policies and procedures of the school – Read the behaviour policies of the school so you can work in line with established ways of handling instances of challenging situations. Don’t try to change things, instead find out about the rhythm and routine of the school and work along with it.
  • Bring tools that can help with classroom management – Depending on the age group you’ll be teaching, select an effective way to manage the classroom energy. One useful way to encourage primary school children to focus in the classroom is to have a “talking beanbag” where only the person who is holding the bean bag is allowed to talk. This will bring an element of fun to the class as the pupils wait to catch the bean bag and have their turn to answer questions. It will also allow the class to focus on whoever is holding the beanbag. With younger children, things like reward stickers are a nice way to say thank you to the pupils for a good day’s work.
  • Carry spare pens and stationery – In the event of school supplies being low, it’s always good to come prepared to class with your own pens, pencils and notebooks. Colourful whiteboard markers can bring interest and visually jazz up a lesson.

Get In Touch With Supply Teacher Recruitment Specialists

At First for Education, we pride ourselves on our ability to consistently find the best supply teaching jobs in the West Midlands. When you register with us, you will receive updates on the latest supply teacher vacancies as well ongoing training and support. If you would like more information about finding supply teaching roles through a recruitment agency, contact us and a member of our experienced staff will be happy to answer your questions.

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