Supply teaching is a very different teaching experience and requires more thinking on your feet. You have to learn how to adapt, pick up on issues within the class and create relationships with staff within a short period of time.
Often supply staff will be requested to return to schools, when an assignment has gone well and the school is located close to you. This has happened to me numerous times with local schools. Being able to walk into a school where you are familiar with other staff and are recognised by the children makes the work a lot easier.
A common misconception about supply teaching is that you won’t have guaranteed work. Some agencies will offer a Guaranteed Work Scheme, where they’ll guarantee you work for a certain number of days and if they don’t find anything they will still pay. Sounds like a positive thing, but it does mean that you have to be flexible to work across the age ranges and be willing to travel up to an hour for a job.
It’s great to be able to experience different schools and see how they work! Some schools are really welcoming and the staff are friendly, while others can be a completely different story. If you’re thinking about finding a long term work, it can be a fantastic glimpse into a school, so you can decide on whether you would want to work there permanently.
Many agencies push you towards the use of an umbrella company to pay your wages however these companies simply take a proportion of your money and I am yet to see what they take it for? I believe there used to be a tax advantage to using one of these companies but that loophole is now closed. My advice is that when approaching an agency always ask to be employed on a PAYE basis and don’t accept anything else.
The freedom from teaching ties that I spoke of previously only really applies to short term or day to day assignments. Taking on a long term position through an agency often comes with all the ties of a normal teaching post but few of the benefits. On occasions I will end up spending a long time marking, following a school’s marking policy, which can be difficult to follow!
Behaviour is an issue that many supply teachers face problems with. It does tend to be the case that many children will ‘act up’ if their usual teacher is absent. I always go in with a positive attitude, reward good behaviour and use the school system for sanctions. I will not just ‘cope’ with bad behaviour, if I am uncomfortable with a particular child’s actions I will simply request for a senior member of staff to come and speak to them/remove them from the class.
Often you will be left planning and this can be a positive as well as negative experience! It is good to have a basis to work from however I have found myself having to teach very young children from a maths scheme which I believe is fundamentally wrong. Obviously as a supply teacher you do what has been asked of you but that can often mean compromising your beliefs and going against what you know is good practise.
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