Top tips when starting out with supply teaching

Taking the step to begin supply teaching can be daunting, whether you are stepping away from the security of a familiar teaching position or starting out as an Early Career Teacher straight from your training.

But it can also be exciting and it is important to be prepared for this new journey.

Finding the right supply agency for you

It is key to find an agency that is the right fit for you, as there are a variety of agencies out there providing services for schools. Things to consider would be:

-         Ethos and values – find an organisation that aligns with your approach.

-         Location – look for an agency with schools in your local area.

-         Feedback from other teachers and schools – contact your local schools to see who they recommend and use for their supply cover, speak to teachers about their experiences.

-         Size of the organisation – do you want to work with a big agency or a smaller one with a more personal feel?

-         Processes – what process does the agency use for recruitment e.g. will this be an online meeting or in person, how do they manage teacher availability and bookings.

-         Contract arrangements – will there be any barriers to finding permanent work in the future due to the agency charging schools a finder’s fee, are you required to work a certain number of days, are you paid via an umbrella company.

-         Additional benefits – access to professional development, career progression, a variety of opportunities, flexible travel, year group and contact time preferences, support from the office team.

Preparing for your bookings

When working on supply being prepared is key. Where you have bookings confirmed in advance you will have time to prepare, to ensure you are ready to work and do your best for the pupils and school that day.

Pre-plan your route to the school you are working at and have an idea of where you are able to park. This will allow you to think about your travel time and plan what time to leave so that you can arrive at the school in plenty of time.

It is also useful to know as much about the school as possible before you arrive and therefore it is good to have a look at the school website. The website will tell you about the curriculum they follow, about the school philosophy and values, about the classes and the structure of the school day.

It is a good idea to check the main school policies such as the behaviour and safeguarding policies.

Think about what additional resources you may need and have your supply bag ready to go. Although in most cases planning is provided it is always helpful to have some activities, lesson extensions and time fillers up your sleeve, ready to use if needed. Also have a few stationery items with you, so you don’t have to hunt for a pen or notepad.

Arriving at the school

Schools can be very different and of course they all have their own community which they serve. If you get the opportunity to speak to someone when you arrive at the school then it is a good idea to ask about the school’s code of conduct and if there is anything in particular that you need to be aware of and procedures you need to follow.

It is important to take with you your ID card/lanyard as well as your DBS certificate and some photo ID as schools will ask to see these before you can get into the school.

Ask as many questions as you can so that you are as prepared as you possibly can be, the more informed you are the better your experience will be.

What does the school expect from you:

·      They need you to be punctual and reliable, but if you are going to be late then please let the school know as soon as possible and also make your supply agency aware so that they can liaise with the school if necessary.

·      Always be friendly, open and positive with all members of the school community, whether that is when meeting parents and carers at the start of the school day, with pupils and with other colleagues within the school.

·      Try to teach what has been asked of you, which can be tricky sometimes as you may feel the pupils do not yet have a full understanding of what they are being asked to do, but trust what the teacher has asked you to teach. It is worth looking in books and on working walls to get a sense of the high expectations set by the school.

·      Always mark the work using the school marking scheme and leave a note for the class teacher so they know how well the day has gone and who may need a little more help during the next session.

Relationships are the building blocks of education, but building those relationships can be difficult as a supply teacher especially if you are only in a school for a day or a limited amount of time. However, pupils usually want to please their class teacher so remind them that their teacher is very proud of them and that you want to report back to the teacher about how well they have done.

Teaching Assistants are a great resource so please make use of them if you are lucky enough to have a TA working with you as they will know all of the school procedures and processes.

Have high expectations of the class with regards to behaviour and their learning and set these positively with the class at the very beginning of the day.

Finishing your day and leaving a good impression

It is important to ensure you mark all work taught that day according to the individual school’s marking policy and to leave a note of explanation for the class teacher. Hopefully you will have been provided with a copy of the school’s marking policy, but if not you can ask for a copy so that you will know, for example, which coloured pen to use!

If you have done any activities that day which have resulted in moving tables around then please try to put everything back as you found it. It may be a good idea to take a photo of the classroom at the start of the day to remind yourself of the set up when you arrived. Or you can ask the pupils who will no doubt be able to tell you how the tables and chairs are set up. If you have a TA working with you then they will also know how the room should be left at the end of the school day.

Making a good impression with the school will likely result in you being requested to return for future bookings.

Finally, think about how you are going to look after yourself. Being on supply can be quite stressful as you move from one school to another, so think about how you are going to manage your time, set yourself boundaries and know when to turn your laptop off!

If you are thinking of working as a primary supply teacher in the Devon area then please contact Exeter Supply Partnership:

·      01392 927171 option 1