When a permanent teacher is absent, or a temporary vacancy at a school becomes available, schools often require the services of supply teachers. These guys undertake temporary teaching contracts at different schools in different locations. Supply teachers are needed in primary, secondary, sixth form and further education institutions.
This area of teaching can be particularly challenging, as supply teachers have to adapt their teaching methods for different situations, schools, subjects and age groups.
Supply teachers have the same teaching responsibilities as permanent members of staff. They prepare lesson plans and teach pupils in accordance with the national curriculum. They’re also responsible for marking students’ work and providing them with necessary feedback, criticism, encouragement and support.
Some of this lot may even be required to help students prepare for crucial examinations and admissions tests. Occasionally, they may also supervise children during events and projects outside of the classroom, such as cultural outings, field trips and excursions.
If a supply teacher is given a long-term temporary assignment at a school, they may even be given the responsibility of meeting with pupils’ parents to discuss their academic progress at parents’ evenings.
These guys need to keep their skills fresh. Consequently, they must keep up to date with new teaching methods and the latest developments in the curriculum.
Salary & benefits
If a supply teacher works a full day, they are paid a daily rate, which is calculated in line with the annual salary they would be entitled to if they were employed full-time. If they don’t work a full day, they are paid an hourly rate, which is defined by the individual school or the local education authority.
Supply teachers are not legally entitled to sick pay or maternity pay.
Check out our secondary school teacher job description to find out more about the annual salary of a teacher.
Supply teachers work on a freelance basis, and thus their weekly schedules tend to change quite regularly. However, when a supply teacher secures a job with a school, their working hours will correspond with the individual institution’s timetable.
Understandably, supply teachers don’t work during school holidays, so they enjoy at least 13 weeks of annual leave each year.
The inconsistent nature of supply teaching means that supply teachers regularly have to travel around the UK in pursuit of work.
Like all teachers, supply teachers need to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) or a Teaching Qualification (TQ) in Scotland. There are various ways you can do this:
You could study an undergraduate degree which automatically gives you QTS, such as a BA in Education.
If your undergraduate degree does not grant you QTS, you could do a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) or a Professional Graduate Diploma in Education (PGDE) if you study in Scotland.
Alternatively, you could pursue one of four other postgraduate routes into teaching: School-centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT), the Registered Teacher Programme (RTP), the Graduate Teacher Programme, or the Overseas Teacher Training Programme (OTTP). Moreover, you could do your teacher training as part of the popular Teach First scheme.
All supply teachers must undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS, formerly CRB [Criminal Records Bureau]) check before they can work in schools.
However, if you are in the final year of your teacher training qualification, are over 24 years of age, and have a strong academic background, you can register as a supply teacher. This is a great way to gain experience and earn some money before you qualify.
Training & progression
Unfortunately, supply teachers don’t usually get the same opportunities for in-service training as permanent members of staff. However, many organisations offer training courses for supply teachers, including local authorities, teachers’ unions (e.g. NUT and NASUWT), and private companies (e.g. Capita), which allow them to keep up to speed.
Supply teaching is the first step in many teachers’ careers. 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.
However, supply teaching is not just a stepping stone to a permanent teaching contract. Many people choose supply teaching over permanent teaching and pursue that route throughout their entire career.
Alternatively, you can explore opportunities in private tutoring or education consultancy.