How Does Supply Teaching Work?
20 February 2024

According to research by The Gatsby Foundation, half of secondary school teachers say that they could not fill a vacancy. Additionally, the publication shows that half of primary teachers indicate that at least one class in their school was being taught by a temporary, or an unqualified, teacher.

Supply teachers cover these shortfalls in school recruitment, by being available to work on a long-term or short-term basis when a school requires them. Supply teachers therefore play an essential role in ensuring that children’s education continues and that they don’t miss out on learning due to teacher absence, or failure to recruit for a vacancy.

Although there are many reasons to become a supply teacher, a lot of people haven’t considered it as a viable career route. This partly comes down to misunderstanding of what the role involves. So we’ve put together this article to help you understand how supply teaching works, and to gain an understanding of a typical day in the life of a supply teacher.

Who Goes Into Supply Teaching?

Our supply teaching pool is made up of individuals with varied backgrounds, including: prospective teachers, former teachers and Early Career Teachers (ECTs, formerly known as NQTs). They all have their own reasons for registering as a supply teacher, but some of the most common are:

  • A desire to gain experience of working in schools, to help decide whether to pursue a teaching career on a permanent basis
  • For greater flexibility in the working day than a traditional teaching role can provide
  • To complete the requirements of the ECT induction period
  • To continue to work with young people after retirement from a full-time position, or a phased retirement
  • To bridge the gap between leaving teaching while seeking a career in another profession.

As you can see, supply teaching isn’t suited to one particular group, but can be a viable and enjoyable job for many people.

Qualifications Required For Supply Teaching

In terms of the qualifications that you need to become a supply teacher, the requirements are the same as a regular teacher in the UK. That means for a long-term role in the classroom, and to be paid on the Teacher Pay Scale, you’ll need to have achieved Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). In other words, anyone who is currently a teacher will be qualified to work on supply.

For those who aren’t qualified teachers, there are still opportunities to work as a cover supervisor. A cover supervisor typically step in to teach classes during short periods of unplanned absence, rather than take on longer-term positions. A cover supervisor isn’t paid on the main teacher pay scale, and therefore won’t be expected to produce their own planning or to make pupil work.

Personal Qualities

For both cover teachers and supply teachers, certain characteristics are required.

Adaptability is crucial. You could be working in a different school each day, with different year groups and within different subject areas. Supply teachers must be able to adapt quickly to unfamiliar situations, often at short notice.

They’ll also need strong interpersonal skills. Managing classrooms of children, when you have no existing relationship with them, can present challenging situations. You’ll need an awareness of behaviour management techniques, as well as empathy and approachability. You’ll also be entering unfamiliar staff rooms and working with colleagues who don’t know you yet. An ability to build relationships with the school’s teachers will be helpful when you need to ask advice, and may stand you in good stead if you ever decide to apply for a longer-term position at the school.

Finally, you must be a great organiser. While you have a great degree of flexibility as a supply teacher, you’ll also have a lot of responsibility to get yourself to new and unfamiliar locations where you may not have worked before. You’ll have to get there early in order to prepare and meet key contacts in the school, as they’ll be responsible for giving you a timetable and the appropriate lesson plans. Being able to organise your day around this is crucial to success as a cover teacher.

How Do I Find Supply Teaching Work?

Most supply teachers will find work through an agency. A supply teaching agency will have existing relationships with many schools and academy chains, and are often the first port of call for schools facing staff absence. This makes them a great choice for supply teachers who want to find work, as the agency will usually have vacancies available.

When the school knows they will need cover, either for a day or a longer period of time, they will contact the agency and ask them to provide a supply teacher. The consultants will be able to access their list of supply teachers and select the one who is best suited for the position. They’ll contact the teacher and, if they accept, they’ll go into the school as a supply teacher.

It is possible for teachers to apply to schools directly, and on occasion, supply agencies who have been sent by an agency are approached by their host schools about contracting them directly. This, however, brings with it several complications which may make the convenience not worthwhile. For example:

  • You’ll lose the flexibility of being able to choose different schools to work in
  • You’ll be responsible for managing your own payroll arrangements, including tax and national insurance
  • If you’re no longer needed in that school, they can let you go and you won’t have other schools readily available.

How Much Will I Be Paid?

The pay for supply teachers varies, and depends on the level of cover they are providing as well as their qualifications.

A qualified teacher, working on a long-term placement can expect to earn the same rate of pay as a permanent member of staff. In other words, you should be paid according to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document.

A cover supervisor will not be paid according to the teacher’s pay scale, however this is a reflection of the fact that they will also not have all of the responsibilities of a teacher, such as marking, planning and reporting to parents. Cover supervisors can expect to earn a competitive daily rate, which is paid by the agency.

The easiest way to find a more exact idea of your daily pay would be to get in touch with us, and arrange an informal chat.

Can Supply Work Contribute To My ECT Induction?

If you secure a long-term placement, then it will count towards your ECT induction. For this to happen, your placement must cover a minimum of one full term (typically 12 weeks). Covering long-term absence is a great way for ECTs to complete their mandatory induction period if they haven’t managed to secure a permanent role after completing their initial teacher training.

If you work on a daily supply basis, this experience while still valuable, cannot count towards the induction. The DfE has determined that the nature of this work is not sufficient to cover all of the Teachers’ Standards.

Register For Supply Work

If this guide has helped you to determine that supply teaching could be for you, get in touch with us and register for our supply pool.

With strong relationships with large academy chains across the UK, we regularly have work available for our supply teachers on both long-term and short-term placements.

We look forward to hearing from you!