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The downsides of supply teaching

(37 Posts)
leccybill Sun 17-May-15 19:54:19

Are there any? I want to know what it's really like.

I'm thinking of resigning my post as MFL teacher. I'm on UPS2. After 11 years, it's all gotten a bit unbearable at my current place. Special Measures, mismanagement, falling roll, redundancies everywhere. I hate it and it's making me ill.

Would I get work? How daunting is it going into a school you don't know? Do other staff make you feel welcome?
Can any supply teachers give me their experiences. I'm in the north west, always thought to be an overpopulated area for teachers due to the amount of training establishments.

FabulousFudge Sun 17-May-15 23:07:16

Supply is amazing! It's only daunting at first. You'll quickly build up a bank of schools who request you and most people will be friendly if you are towards them. I love it!

CheeseBored Sun 17-May-15 23:11:13

I really like it too. You are right that it depends on your area in terms of how much work there is. Also choose your agency wisely, or sign up to a few. I got little work with one and loads with another. I have really enjoyed supply but can't see myself doing it longterm.

Pipbin Sun 17-May-15 23:17:11

I did supply without an agency.
I wrote to every headteacher of every school in my town, primary so there was a lot to write to. I said that I was looking for supply work and I was interested in visiting the school.
I spent about two weeks visiting two schools a day and after that I was never out of work.
The downside is that you don't tend to get much work for the first or last weeks of the term.
Also, you will need to manage your money well as you won't get a regular income.

Littlefish Sun 17-May-15 23:20:06

I enjoyed it for a while. At first, I was just relieved to be away from the politics and stress of my previous school. However, after a while, I missed having a class, and having proper relationships with the children and families.

Like Pipbin, I didn't use an agency, I just wrote to the schools I wanted to work in.

BackforGood Sun 17-May-15 23:29:21

- Irregular money - sometimes difficult to keep track, and don't get paid until the following month
- No work at beginning and end of terms
- No relationships built with children/ families over time
- enormous difficulties with childcare if you need need to pay for the place if you are working or not
-not knowing the 'system' or 'procedure' in school when there are very disruptive pupils
-not having a clue of the abilities / difficulties of the pupils in front of you every lesson
- (if going into different schools) not knowing times of lessons / code for the photocopier / password for the IWB / other resources
- much harder to do playground duty (OK, prob wouldn't apply in Secondary)

As you are MFL, have you thought about contacting all your local Primary schools and offering to do their MFL (possibly as PPA cover?) from September? They'd probably bite your hand off.

Pipbin Mon 18-May-15 00:00:59

Good thinking Back. Try writing to local primary schools and say that you teach languages and are looking for supply come September. If any of them have a scrap of sense they'll get you in a couple of days a week to teach languages. You'll have a full week of regular work before you know it.

I agree that one of the downsides is the lack of knowledge of discipline procedure.
I also found not being a member of staff hard socially.

Hulaflame Mon 18-May-15 00:07:38

Go and work in a private school! I was Head of MFL for 8 years then did supply after DC was born for a few years. Very tough in the state sector now! Now work in a small private school teaching MFL and it's like a dream! Good luck op

leccybill Mon 18-May-15 00:26:33

I have toyed with the idea of offering Primary MFL, I have experience of teaching Years 3-6 through our transition programme.
Actually, it sounds very appealing and something I'm going to give a lot of thought to.

StupidBloodyKindle Mon 18-May-15 00:50:11

Worked for Salford Tameside Trafford Stockport Manchester and Rochdale LEAs

This was years ago though so times might well have changed....

1. Agency pay: lowest £85/day highest: £135/day (2000-2002)
Be careful with signing for more than one agency, tax return needed, or have to choose one as your MAIN employer. They will ALL tell you they have regular work, good schools etc. when half the time they are cold-calling anywhere and everywhere, just wanting someone with a pulse they can send to some school as #supply86 or in special measures or with an Ofsted or all three.
You will be sent to some of the furthest/worst schools as a baptism of fire/test to see what you will put up with how you cope/as noone else would travel that far. You will also be given the lowest daily rate you will accept until you kick off when you find out someone working for the same agency is getting more wink
I ended up on 18k per year excluding petrol/wear and tear on car as, as others have said, work dries up at certain parts of the year.

2. You are MFL but do not expect that is the only work you will get, think ppa cover, you will often get a mix at secondary across the curriculum. You might also get work at primaries, sen, hospital, private schools. Sometimes you will get decent lesson plans, other times it might be a sheet they claim to have done already, a wordsearch, educational colouring in or textbook page such and such. You may as MFL get the odd listening exercise or you may get expected to pull out oral drilling at the drop of a hat/handed a metro and told the topic.

3. Not so much interaction in the staffroom but that depends on the school/set up/stress levels. I can be sociable and would chat when felt like it/ if others wanted to/ if I liked school and wanted to go back.

4. In day to day supply, as the constant newbie, your classroom management has to be shit hot....
Don't want to teach you to suck eggs but you need to arrive as early as you can depending on when you got the call and work out....
a) the layout
b) the 5 names to namedrop (heads of year) and the on-call system
c) the measure of the school, are there plans, do you have to photocopy anything

Kids line up, stand behind chairs, logbook on desks, date/title/objective on board, the usual...
If there are SIMS registers/online registers get the codes or a list of names and the seating plan
Send a piece of paper if you must but expect Theresa Green Ben Dover Phil McCrackin to be part of the class at some point wink

Keep a spreadsheet of which schools you enjoy. Keep a copy of any sheets you find to be good practice.
Be consistent and you will be asked to return/asked for by name/get a good rep.
Think about joining the LEA pool/doing a learning cover supervisor role in one school.
Certainly the idea about taking the initiative and approaching primaries is a good one if you want to go into that sector but then stability vs less freedom comes into play?


StupidBloodyKindle Mon 18-May-15 01:00:56

Also, I don't know how much money you have spare but a great investment for if you want plan B emergency work for if substandard is there, but you do not want to carry a lever arch file of resources/sub stick then the following books on Amazon uk are expensive but fantastic:

Fascinating ideas for flummoxed French teachers
Germane ideas for German teachers

They are sheets via topics, photocopiable, in a cardboard cover book. Price for both £60+£90 £150, a day's supply fee, but worth the investment to cover yourself. Naturally you will also need your set of boardmarkers, spare pencils and bics, just make sure you write down who you lent them to and get them back at the end of each lesson or feel sorry for the little lighters and spend half your wages on stationery

BackforGood Mon 18-May-15 15:43:35

I read a great tip on here once (or it might have been on TES I can't remember)

If you lend a pupil ANY item of stationery - even "just" a pen or pencil, then make them leave one of their shoes with you, on the desk, as a "deposit" - that way, they won't walk away without returning the pen you've lent them grin

BackforGood Mon 18-May-15 15:44:40

I think the other worry with secondary supply, is the number of schools that use cover supervisors - my dcs rarely have a supply teacher in, unless it's a long, whole term type of thing.

StupidBloodyKindle Mon 18-May-15 16:59:47

Correct, the bottom of the market started dropping around 2004-5. Hitherto you could pick and choose a bit, and name your price in some cases. School budgets were being screwed certainly by agencies on a day to day basis. Not forgetting the fee agencies will try and charge as finder's fee if school take a shine to you and want you long term.
The thing with longer placements/maternity covers/sickness related is that you end up straight back where you were with the same planning and marking commitments, the expectations/observation schedule might be lower for supply but as soon as you take on long term you are right back where you were like the mafia...thought I was out, dragged me back in again.
The ideal is to be a known quantity/first call/late call in a familiar school where you are on a mainscale daily rate covering the day to day third absentee (if two cover supervisors are in place already) and are 'delivery of lesson plan only'... but clearly, there will be days when you are not needed and this will only work if you are the additional wage not reliant on the money coming in.
I ended up doing two years as a cover supervisor at 18k per year term time only, worked out about 1k/month (2005-7) simply because it worked out well with having a toddler at that time. I got inset training when it was whole school and I was on the official staff list, reporting directly to the deputy and cover manager, the kids and staff knew me and I was delivery only, although would do a bit of extra prep or marking when free (was not always on cover) out of goodwill/making lesson plan better.
Still, many thought I was crazy, effectively taking a 50% paycut and selling myself short but for me, it was the part of teaching I enjoyed, the delivery, with far less admin or political bullshit. So mentally it was like going part time (without the half pay but still twice the workload/same expectations conundrum) that I think part timers end up with or those on a job share.
My cross-curricular knowledge at that time got so much better, I could have a chat and brew with most departments and I could walk out the door at 4pm with my evening free but, unlike supply, knowing where I would be the following day, often what my day might be, and although I might have full day
contact time I would be safe in the knowledge that even if tired I would have less stress/also be backed up by smt with any behaviour issues.

But I think supply teaching in the first instance does help you get a feel for LEAs and schools beyond what you read/know from colleagues and that can be hugely helpful if you want to know whether it is the job admin you have a problem with or the job itself (you cannot survive in supply without decent classroom management/behaviour strategies*), if you need a sense of perspective/reality check, or just a break from routine it can give you a big insight into senior management in place so when a job does come up in a school you like, you can apply knowing you are a decent match.
*evidently does not apply to those who don't care, who are in denial or whose self esteem is not connected with whether their kids make progress or not wink

happyteacher1 Mon 18-May-15 17:54:20

I love supply teaching. I work via agencies and also directly with schools. I have a large pool of schools that use me and I very occasionally agree to work full time for them if they are really stuck for a teacher; however, I prefer day to day, as there is no planning, no meetings, no pointless paperwork and no stress!

Littlemisssunshine72 Mon 18-May-15 20:41:13

I'm on a guaranteed work scheme with my agency whereby as long as I am only signed on with the one agency they guarantee me work for the days I am available to work.
If there is no work, they pay me anyway. This works out well for the weeks either side of holidays.

quellerosiel Mon 18-May-15 22:56:40

I appear to be in a minority here... but I hate cover teaching. It can be very lonely, very daunting and I always feel like I'm never fully in control as the kids will always know more than you faster than you. Its their turf and they know it.

This could be my inexperience talking though. Just finished PGCE last year and haven't had a proper job yet, all my newbie enthusiasm is going to waste!!

StupidBloodyKindle Mon 18-May-15 23:50:50

Oh quellerosiel flowers

I would never ever recommend an NQT to go into supply (I know you won't have had a choice) for the reasons you state. You cannot set your stall out, decorate your classroom, establish yourself as a new member of staff and develop positive pupil relations if you are doing day to day supply (you can promote them but not develop the same relationships as you would long term, just not possible unless there regularly) and you will always be on the back foot playing catch-up....enthusiasm can get you an awfully long way but as an NQT you need a solid base and mentor so you can follow up your PGCE, mastering key classroom management, not being thrown into the deep end (I am NOT questioning your abilities but kids can smell blood like sharks, going in newly qualified, you are putting on a performance each day you might not have learned how to do yet iyswim). Watch dispatches:substitute teacher on YouTube to cheer yourself up, it won't be you alone feeling daunted, it's just not fair you are in that position.
I meant supply in the first instance on leaving a job, like the OP, instead of jumping straight into something else with a commitment, simply because it gives you a stepping stone/pause for breath/while in between work or making a career change. If you feel burnt out/let down by the paperwork/personality clash with the school...then supply can help you work out whether it is just a change of school or change of pace you need as opposed to leaving the profession altogether. It is also good for retired teachers who want one or two days a week as a bit of extra security.

But it is not for the faint hearted and as an NQT it would have put me off for life. I did a fortnight's supply at the end of my PGCE but in a school where I had been on placement so everyone knew me, not the same situation at all.

I only hope you are making some contacts that might be useful to you for the future and that you have something you can 'sell' at your next interview. Hopefully someone will resign at whitsun and there will be a job with your name on it.

Good luck shamrock for finding something permanent in September.

happyteacher1 Tue 19-May-15 06:09:30

I totally agree. I have been a teacher for many years, but I still remember doing supply straight after my PGCE: I had absolutely no confidence and no classroom control. The teacher next door at one school had to come in and sort out the class. Now, I can quash a naughty child with a flick of an eyebrow. With experience comes confidence. Good luck with finding the right job for you.

quellerosiel Tue 19-May-15 12:06:33

Oh thank you so much for those lovely words! Totally unexpected smile

Yea its sucky and didn't have much choice in the matter. Starting a nice little mat cover in September which will hopefully give me a boost! I did a post compulsory PGCE so no NQT year as such, do have to do some stuff for my professional status which amounts to more or less the same thing.

Covering has hugely sucked but I've learnt so much and met some lovely people so not all bad. I took a decision a few months ago to not do standby, that helped hugely. Just going to bed at night knowing what I'm doing the next day was much better. Something will turn up at some point, its just difficult being in an unpopular subject Sometimes.

MiaowTheCat Tue 19-May-15 13:14:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

leccybill Mon 05-Oct-15 22:55:47

Just revisiting this thread to say I did indeed quit my job in the summer and I am hopefully beginning supply teaching next week, with a couple of self-employed mornings I have arranged myself on a rolling contract.
Feel liberated and actually quite excited. Thank you for all of the brilliant advice given on this thread - I've got my supply 'kit' at the ready!

MrsUltracrepidarian Tue 06-Oct-15 09:20:28

I love it!
Retrained as secondary teacher 2 yrs ago - rubbish course from useless 'Uni', so decided to do supply instead of NQT. Started last Oct, have had all the days I wanted. Last with four agencies, ditched 2 this year and now with 2 agencies and one school direct.
You have to be on the ball re agency tricks and the turnover of their staff.
Don't believe them if they say the school will only pay a lower rate - rubbish, they will charge the school the same and pay you less of you let them sucker you for that.
Don't undersell yourself - a day's supply is perishable goods , like and airline seat. if they don't fill it with you, another agency might get it with one of theirs - their worst nightmare grin.
Figure their angle, and then exploit the agency anxiety to get a good deal for you.

GinandJag Tue 06-Oct-15 16:30:10

I have just started supply. My preference is for short term block work doing the full job of the teacher, rather than covering every lesson. I was in work less than a week after putting my CV into the ether.

I'm coming to the end of a five week block and don't really know what I will be doing next week. Hopefully something will come up.

My take home pay is about £105 per day, which is fine. I claim travel expenses so that takes the sting out of long commutes.

I find agents to be really pushy. The call you up to tell you about a job that really doesn't fit and persuade you to let them send your CV to the school, and then you never hear about it again. I think they have a very scattergun approach.

It's a zero-hours contract, so you have to think carefully about giving up a secure job. Maybe in half-term you can visit some agencies and get a feel for what MFL work is out there?

MrsUltracrepidarian Tue 06-Oct-15 17:06:44

If the work 'includes travel expenses' beware. If you are being paid through an umbrella company, they will be reducing your hourly rate and making it up with 'expenses' to dodge tax.

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