Supply & demand…
If you’ve ever seen Arnold Schwarzenegger in Kindergarten Cop, you might think that all supply teachers are muscle-bound undercover policeman. This is pretty much never the case! Supply teachers are all actually qualified teachers – they just don’t work for one specific school.
Why is it important? What does it involve?
When a permanent teacher is absent, or a temporary vacancy at a school becomes available, schools will often require the services of supply teachers. These guys undertake temporary teaching contracts at different schools, in different locations, for different periods of time. A supply teacher might end up working in a particular school for a period of days, weeks, months, or even years.
Supply teaching is all about adaptability. Supply teachers need to be flexible in order to secure enough teaching placements and make money. They might be required to travel to different areas of the country and work in all different kinds of institutions. Teaching in different environments can be a special challenge, and supply teachers need to have the ability to adapt their teaching style and methods to changing situations.
Working as a supply teacher can be a very exciting and interesting career choice in education, where you are constantly kept on your toes. Often, these guys will find roles where they can teach their own specialist subject.
However, sometimes they may need to teach pupils about other topics too. Consequently, they will need to have a broad range of knowledge, and do their preparation, both to avoid embarrassment and to allow them to answer searching questions from students.
The flexible nature of these teaching careers not only provides challenges, but it can also offer supply teachers a great deal of freedom. These guys are in charge of their own time and are effectively their own boss. Proactive supply teachers have the potential to earn more money than permanent teaching staff.
However, as with all kinds of contract work, there is a reduced amount job security and your monthly salary can be inconsistent. You might go for long periods of time without any work, and often you are not given holiday or sick pay.
Break it down for me a little bit!
Supply teachers are needed in primary, secondary, sixth form and further education institutions. It can be a great way for Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) to gain great work experience and earn some money before they can secure a permanent job. Undertaking a longer placement for a specific school might even open up permanent opportunities for you within that same institution.
However, supply teaching is not just a stepping stone to getting a permanent teaching contract. Many people choose supply teaching over permanent teaching and pursue that route throughout their entire career.
Supply teachers tend to register with specialist agencies who find them placements, such as Capita Education, Connex Education and teachweb. The supply teaching market is fast-paced and competitive, and a good agency should be able to arrange lots of placements for you.
Some might have a better network and reputation than others, and some might only cater for certain geographical areas, so it’s a good idea to do your research into different agencies first.
Unfortunately, these agencies do take a cut of your salary, and whilst they are initially essential for your progression in the world of supply teaching, it can mean you will earn less than a permanent teacher. As you build up your reputation and develop a list of contacts, it might be useful to eventually stop using agencies and find your own supply work.
Like all teachers, supply teachers need to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and obtain a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, previously called CRB, or Criminal Records Bureau) check before they can work in schools.
If you are in the final year of your teacher training qualification, you can register as a supply teacher and you might be able to do some supply teaching in numerous schools around the country. If you have a strong academic background and are over 24 years of age (this is usually an essential requirement), this can be a great way to gain more experience and earn some money before you full qualify.
If you fancy going into teaching but don’t want to head straight for a permanent role, whether you want some experience or crave a little flexibility, or you’re Jack Black or Ned Schneebly in School of Rock, then this could be the ideal place for you.