Cover/supply teachers - your opinions on this...

(17 Posts)
QueenoftheSarf Thu 28-Nov-13 20:55:43

I am getting increasingly frustrated about the amount of cover teachers my Yr 9 DS is having in English. Now, it is even getting to the stage where he is having cover teachers to cover the supply teachers if you know what I mean! He has two teachers for this subject to start with so if they'e both off at intervals it's double trouble.

The school has issued assurances that, wherever possible, it will only use "in-house" supply teachers so that the children at least know the teachers, even if they're not teaching their own subjects, and also assured us that the regular teachers must prepare a lesson plan for the supply teachers so that disruption to the children's learning is minimised. However, this does not always seem to be happening. Last week my DS came home and told me that one of the English teachers had torn the whole class off a strip for misinforming the supply teacher about which chapter of the book they were studying they were on. This meant they went on and read ahead of what they should have done and she was mightily cheesed off about this upon her return - should she have taken this out on them? I don't think so. According to school policy it, was her place to leave instructions for the supply teacher, not for him/her to take instructions from the children.

They have also on a couple of occasions been set work and had to prepare to make group presentations to the class, only to find that on the day the teacher is off and the supply teacher is not able to facilitate the session as planned. This happened weeks ago now and they've never had the chance to actually do the work they prepared for. This does disrupt their learning and I feel that it's getting to the point where I want to say something about it. My DS has had one of the teachers for only 9 periods since September.

The school is switching to an academy next year and there are rumours going around that attendance policies for teaching staff might be tightened up as a result. Does this sound right?

I hate to appear uncharitable if these teachers have illness etc (I realise they are allowed to be ill) but it is no joke when the children have to suffer in this way. I am worried that next year is the start of the GCSE course and then everything becomes a lot more serious.

I wouldn't worry so much is it was needlework or art or something but English is a core subject.

Has anyone else encountered problems like these and made a complaint? I certainly feel like I want to.

ChampagneTastes Thu 28-Nov-13 21:01:53

I'm a teacher. That is crap. The school has a responsibility to ensure some semblance of consistency regardless of absence. If the absence is due to long-term sick, they should get long term supply in. Having "familiar faces" is no good if they are different ones each time.

You need to take this up with the Head of Department. It is not unreasonable to ask why there is so much absence or how they are going to ensure future lessons are not disrupted. If you don't get a response you are happy with, go to the governors.

QueenoftheSarf Thu 28-Nov-13 21:04:27

Unfortunately the head of department is one of his teachers who's always off! Maybe I should raise it with the Head?

gobbin Thu 28-Nov-13 21:09:54

Absolutely. We had a similar issue with DS's Chem teacher (long term sick, replaced by a succession of supply teachers) in Yr 10.

QueenoftheSarf Thu 28-Nov-13 21:37:04

It's so frustrating isn't it? I understand that teachers can get ill, just like everyone else, but we are kept totally in the dark about the reasons for their absence and the children just have to muddle along in the meantime.

AtiaoftheJulii Thu 28-Nov-13 21:38:19

Yes, raise it. Even if they can't do anything about it you deserve some information about what's going on.

eofa1 Fri 29-Nov-13 14:18:46

Qof S: You want to know the "reasons for their absence"? Seriously? You think it would be appropriate for parents to be given information about the health/personal circumstances of a teacher?

OP, I can imagine your frustration and it is perfectly reasonable. Kids get very little done with supply teachers in general and if it's an ongoing problem it can have a big impact on a lot of kids. It is a sign both of a shortage of decent teachers in some areas/subjects and the stress of the job. Which rather gives the lie to people who go on about how easy teachers have it...

MillyMollyMama Fri 29-Nov-13 23:20:04

What you describe, OP, is also a sign of poor management and leadership in the school. Ofsted always comment on over reliance on supply and cover teachers and it is seen as a negative on the quality of learning. Whilst you cannot really ask what is wrong with the ill teachers, you can ask what the school intends to do about securing good quality and appropriate supply cover so the children get continuity of teaching. Have they done any lesson observation of these various teachers? How do they know if they are any good? Sounds like a dire situation to me and grossly unfair on the children. If people are stressed in their jobs, beyond what is reasonable, they are in the wrong job.....whatever the job is. Teaching is not alone in being stressful to some, but others thrive when teaching. Usually poor leadership is the underlying problem though!

Blissx Sat 30-Nov-13 10:06:06

Definitely raise it. It will not be the Teachers' fault per se, but probably the school SLT/Governors trying to save money (that's probably the real reason why they are using the 'in house' excuse.) They need to get in an actual supply teacher, rather than using other teachers during their PPA. They are also going against union guidelines with regards to "Rarely Cover". Teachers are not supposed to cover long term/known absence. Partly for this reason. Your DC needs to get some consistency back. Good luck.

Oh, and don't fall for the Academy line either. It will just mean the school has Carte Blanche to do what they want...

Blissx Sat 30-Nov-13 10:11:25

Just read your last comment though, OP. I agree with eofa1. Why do you need to know the reason for the teacher's absence? I would ignore this and just focus on the point of a long term supply teacher.

QueenoftheSarf Tue 03-Dec-13 20:09:26

I didn't actually mean I want chapter and verse on their personal circumstances. What would I? That would be totally unreasonable and unfeasible. However, there can be a world of difference between "Mrs X has a nasty cold and has lost her voice so won't be in for a week" or "Mrs X has been signed off sick for the rest of the term". Of course no one needs to know what the problem is if Mrs X has been sighed off for the term - nor would then want to - but it's just an indication of the length of absence we need so that we can then approach the school for information about the strategy they propose putting in place to cover the absence.

No one resents teachers being absent for whatever reason - they are not robots who are never supposed to fall ill or have other situations to deal with that take them away from school. They just resent the fact that cover supply is often put in place which is simply just not adequate to fill the gaps their absence leaves and this impacts adversely upon their children's learning.

KittyVonCatsington Tue 03-Dec-13 20:28:28

Wow, QueenoftheSarf-have you misread Blissx's post? She agreed with you and your comment on 28-Nov did not allude to the length of absence -only to knowing the reason for absence, so quite why you wrote that last rant, I don't know hmm

QueenoftheSarf Wed 04-Dec-13 19:51:19

KittyVonCastington my last post was not directed at Blissx but was directed towards eofa1 who seemed to be taking a swipe at me by saying "You want to know the "reasons for their absence"? Seriously? You think it would be appropriate for parents to be given information about the health/personal circumstances of a teacher?

My post of Thu 28-Nov-13 21:37:04 was simply making the link between reason for absence and length of absence - i.e that if they have something that is likely to keep them off for a long time - i.e. two broken legs which might keep them off for two terms it's quite different from a throat infection, which might keep them off for a week or two.

I'm really not interested in what's wrong with them, or their personal circumstances, just whether it's going to result in a sustained period of absence or a relatively short one. All we want to know is whether a specialist subject teacher should be drafted in, or they can manage with a procession of supply teachers who have no specialism in English.

The crux of the issue is that there is no communication about how long the teacher is likely to be off for and before we know it weeks and weeks seem to have passed and the children are limping along with a series of different cover teachers who are not really English teachers and so can't properly support their learning. I don't know about you, but I really don't think it's an ideal situation.

cricketballs Wed 04-Dec-13 20:19:57

there are several illness that however don't dictate the length of absence so ho would your scenario work? I have a colleague that whilst is very ill her doctor will only give her a 2 week note each time. Obviously. the school are left with having to deal with a regular 2 week sick note as they can't arrange supply for a whole term if she returns in 2 weeks time.

Whilst I understand your frustrations - employment law is something that every school has to comply with and when this situation arises, the main focus will be on year 11/13 to ensure that in their final year they have some continuity.

adoptmama Fri 06-Dec-13 16:58:58

raise it with the head or head of ks. As a teacher, i think your son and his classmates have had a raw deal.

Ingrid1964 Thu 26-Dec-13 02:11:08

Astonishing...........none of your business really.

frogspoon Sat 28-Dec-13 19:41:07

I am an ex-supply teacher (now in a permanent teaching post).

Teachers' absences unfortunately are unavoidable, and it's none of your business why they are absent. It may be that the school has no idea about how long the teacher will be off, they may be seriously unwell.

Some teachers are signed off for e.g. 3 months following an accident/ operation, and then it is very clear to the school how long cover will be needed for. However sometimes teachers with an ongoing condition, particularly something like depression will be signed off for a couple of weeks, then come back in for a few weeks, then get signed off again etc.

The school should be doing their best to maintain consistency wherever possible in supply teaching. This may mean using in-house supply teachers, or cover supervisors, or it may mean getting a teacher in from an agency on a medium-term contract, once they know a teacher will be absent for longer than 2 weeks.

IMO, for all examined subjects at GCSE/ A-level it is ideal to have a specialist subject teacher. A non specialist can facilitate consolidation of previously learnt work, but it would be quite difficult for them to teach anything new as they may not be familiar with the topic themselves.

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