Supply Teacher Room 101

I have been asking for supply teacher faux pas from the recruitment agencies... And they have made for some comic reading!  Here's a selection: 

Collapse in class - drunk! - Anon
Telling the head where they're going wrong with their school! - Supply Desk
Pop home at lunch time as you live close to the schools and forget to go back because you get caught up in the house work! - First Class Supply
Don't just leave at the end of a 1 day assignment, speak to staff and give feedback. Will go a long way to going back! - Capita Education Resourcing
Don't make up your own directions. Trust us! We have tried and tested out directions. - Protocol Education
Don't give up on the way because of public transport. - Protocol Education
Don't leave before all marking is done and you've written handover notes. - Protocol Education
Don't forget to do the register! - Thames Teachers
Don't assume one day is not enough time to build a positive relationship with a student. It only takes a word to change a life. - Thames Teachers
Don't call in late using delayed trains as an excuse when BBC Breakfast is clearly audible in the background! - Thames Teachers
What do you mean, what is KS2? - Teach247
You took the photocopier room keys home with you? - Teach247
You left your jacket / phone on the coach with the Year 6 kids! - Teach247

If you are a supply teacher agency and have your own tales you'd like putting in The Supply Teacher's Room 101, please let me know!

Supply Teacher Room 101

Supply teachers at the ready? Then let's hear some of your Room 101 entries too!

People who ask you to do a date in school, you turn up and they have either changed their mind and not told you or made a mistake and YOU have turned down work elsewhere INFURIATING.....
The Supply Agencies!
When the supply agency has given you a wrong post code, now that can be infuriating.
Year 9s!
"Just because we have someone different in the room, doesn't mean you can be disruptive/loud/silly."
"We've got a supply!" cue jumping, yelling etc..
"Good luck- you'll need it!"
Drama lesson - act out different types of bullying.
Yard duty
Why aren't you a REAL teacher?'
Yr 9 behaviour group drama.....still having nightmares lol
"They know what to do"
"But you are looking for a permanent job aren't you?"
"Really you have a husband and family?"
Two stars & a wish...on every piece of work
At the end of the day..."Miss! Who is star of the day? They get to sit on the special cushion tomorrow."
"Are you a teacher or just a helper/supply?" Grrrr!
5 mins into break... "You are on break duty"
One of my failings - going into a cupboard off the hall and not 'my' classroom.
Really you are his princess? Really you are a mum (sideways glance) Sure? Do your kids like you miss?
"Go find your own friends Miss.. do you have friends?" Ah, bless the adolescent mind! have a day covering P.E, they know what to do.
Are you a sixth former?
Another teacher has logged you on (great!) but then it locks and you don't have the password.
Using the black permanent marker to write my name on the whiteboard eeek!
Pushing the wrong button to get out, setting off the fire alarm, still worth it for the hunky firemen!
My front tooth crown fell out flew across the room and I tried to stick it back in with bluetac in the cupboard.
You will have a lovely afternoon with year one comparing a 
Minstrel to a chocolate button to see which one melts fastest in their hands - Hahaha! They kept eating them and there was no sink in the room!
Cups that aren't washed out properly and have those cacky tea stains in them!!!
I once found a school dinner plate in a cupbourd covered in fag butts, I assume the teacher smoked in there at break times!



Out of School Earnings

The first in a series of articles looking at how supply teachers can ‘top up’ their income. by Sharon Wood

Almost anyone can become a party plan consultant.  The barriers to entry are similar to supply teaching:
There is often a start-up fee. Depending on which company you chose to represent, this can range from being free, to thousands of pounds. The current start-up fee for The Body Shop for example, is £45.
Travel will be involved! As with supply work, the more you are willing and able to travel, the more work will be available to you.
As with supply teaching, you need to be flexible, adaptable, personable, inspirational, enthusiastic and demonstrate confidence!
And it’s not just for women! ColourMeBeautiful offer courses in Men’s Image and Corporate Image that may appeal equally to our male supply teachers.

Earning potential as a supply teacherEarning extra cash by going into other people’s homes and helping them to enjoy a party sounds like a dream job to some. Consultants usually start out by having parties with their friends as hosts. Their business can grow as friends of friends will then be tempted to book a party for themselves. To boost income further, inventive ways of getting the word out about your party plans may be necessary. As with many things in life, you will get back what you put in, as long as what you put in consists of the right ingredients! You may choose to demonstrate children’s products, Usborne Books for example, and this work can be done during the day time just as easily by visiting playgroups and school settings on the days when you don’t have supply work.

Parties are predominantly held in the evenings. Depending on the product, they can be more frequent on the run up to Christmas, as stocking filler ideas are in abundance and special offers mount up. You may want to limit yourself to one or two a week in the beginning, as there can be a lot of background administrative work to be done. However, with regards earning potential, the sky could be your limit! In more populous areas, you could be out partying every night of the week with the right attitude and the right products!

When choosing a company, think about the products that you love. You will be demonstrating the products, and if you have a real passion for the products, this will shine through, and sales will be easier, work less of a chore. Once you’ve decided on the type of product you’d like to sell, the rest may be easy. Ann Summers (ladies only) parties for example, are known world-wide, and there may not be an obvious second choice for you. If there is more than one option for you however, take a look at start up fees, compare commission rates, and take a look at any training and support offered – this could help make or break your career.


More options to explore:
Jamie at Home
Virgin Wines Fabulous
The Pampered Chef
Stella & Dot
Tatty Bumpkin
Pitter Patter Products
Ella’s Toy Shop
NYR Organics

Making First Impressions Count

by Sharon Wood

When you are first starting out as a supply teacher, it feels like every assignment is a day-long interview… And to be honest, if you want to get ahead, you should treat it as such!

We are none of us superhuman however, and you may want to concentrate your efforts on creating a good first impression.

Here are 5 top tips for making a great first impression:

  1. Be on time – poor time management skills need to be addressed, they will not win you any brownie points at any time in your career.  Staff may question your commitment to the assignment, and ability to keep a lesson on track.
  2. Look presentable – I was told at university to dress for school as I may dress for a position in a bank. While I don't necessarily agree with this (in lower key stages women may find it difficult to kneel on the floor for hours in a pencil skirt!), it is important to present yourself as a professional whilst on assignment.  It may also help your confidence levels if you are dressed appropriately.
  3. Be personable – be polite, be interested, ask relevant questions, mind your manners, and remember:  smiles are contagious!
  4. Check out NuttySupplier’s 10 Commandments of Supply Teaching.
  5. Be prepared – have your PE kit, just in case, have ideas up your sleeve, just in case and have a resource or two in your bag, just in case!  Make sure you carry at all times your relevant papers such as CRB, agency documents and CPD log. Take a look here to see what other supply teachers carry in their supply bags.

A Feast of Ideas

A feast of ideas for supply teachersby Sharon Wood

Homework. The answer to a lot of supply teachers’ worries is homework.

If you think about it, homework needs little adult intervention (not necessarily the plea of a supply teacher but keep reading!) because it is practically resource free, needs little planning, little preparation, and can be done by all abilities.

Let’s face it, the homework our children get can be generic. Often activities based on something they know already, that they have done in class, something that could do with a little reinforcement.

So homework it is then. No planning, no preparation, no resources, perfect activities for supply teachers left with no planning, no preparation time and no access to resources!

Here are a few ideas to get you started. The more you look at emergency lesson plans like this, the more you will be able to develop your own ideas based on the classroom environment – taking in displays, quick glances at children’s exercise books etc. When reading the ideas below, take a few moments to image using it in your Key Stage and subject area. Can you think of extension work in your curriculum subject? Can you give the younger children a starting point?

Supply teacher emergency lesson ideas for all ages (taken from a homework book circa 1985):

Write a story which couldn't possibly be true.
Write a list of at least ten words ending with –dge
Invent your own dinosaur and draw a picture of it.
Write the plan for a story about waking up and finding a member of your family can fly.
Think about how you would make a model of a lift or swing bridge using junk, or Lego or similar. Write instructions and draw diagrams.
Think of an animal that can fly, one that can walk, and one that can swim. How do their bodies differ and what individual skills do they have?
Draw your bedroom in plan view. Include the door, bed and window.
Design a puppet. Write a description of how you would make it.
What are the smallest and largest numbers you can make from this selection [x numbers chosen at random]
Draw your route to school.
How many problems can you write with an answer of 12? (i.e. 3x4, 2+10)
Plan and draw a maze.

If you want more practice at improvising whole lesson ideas, complete our CPD course module on Improvisation Skills.

If you really are not cut out to conjure up lessons on the hop, then take a look at’s Emergency Lesson Plans for Supply Teachers, currently available for EYFS, KS1 and KS2 ages.

Financial Planning for the Occasional Worker

by Sharon Wood

Making the leap into supply teaching comes as a blind leap of faith for some.  One of the biggest worries is financial uncertainty.  One very real problem faced by supply teachers is financial instability – great peaks and troughs in the amount of money earned month on month.

Budgeting for occasional workers

You may have to wait a long time for your first pay packet.  When it comes, the urge to spend it all could be strong.  For some, it money represents a chance to pay off a bit of the credit card, a bit of the overdraft, and a bit of the loan.  For others, buying those long-awaited ‘must-haves’ that we all deserve to spoil ourselves with, making our first wages more memorable and exciting!


Lack of certainty over future pay packets, meant I would never use a credit card.  We do have one in the family, as there are some strong arguments for using them, but we didn't have one for a very long time as I always said: ‘If we haven’t got it to spend today, we shouldn't gamble on having it to spend tomorrow.’ Or in a month, as is the case with credit cards! I always saved for something I needed, never taken credit other than the mortgage, and made sure there was always money in the bank for unexpected, necessary spending.

For me, the answer to financial instability was always POTS! Easy to set up, difficult to commit to initially, but the rewards are evident quite quickly.


A third away for a rainy day.

Resist the temptation to spend it all.  Almost half the days of the year are not wage-earning days as a supply teacher.  Out of the 365 days in the year, 190 are working days, leaving a whopping 175 days of weekends, holidays and training days.  Factor into this that you may not be able to work every day, and it soon becomes apparent that you need to do some squirrelling!

Make a complete list of your annual outgoings.


From rent to haircuts to Christmas wrapping paper.

Work out how much is needed for annual payments (i.e. MOT, insurances, road tax).  Divide this by 12 or 52, and put that much away each month / week in one account / ISA / envelope.  After the first couple of months, you should be able to go straight to that pot and take out the money needed for your annual payment.

Work out how much is needed for monthly payments (i.e. mortgage, power, mobile phone) and squirrel that much away somewhere else. 

What you're left with is what you have to spend on food, fuel, social activities.  But put a third away for those non-earning days! It may be very little that you're left with, and it will be hard, but when the car insurance, MOT and road tax are all due next September, after a lean summer, it will all be worth it!

I have gone further with my potting shed than is detailed here, though not as far as a friend of mine:


Doesn't have a current account.
Is paid monthly.
Uses envelopes in a box.

Her son’s school uniform costs (for example) £200 each year, so into the envelope marked Uniform goes £16.67 monthly. 

Christmas costs the family around £500 a year, so the Christmas envelope is fed £41.67 a month.

Her prepaid prescription card costs £104, so into that envelope goes £8.67.  And when it is time to buy a new one, the money is there – no nasty surprises.

Her envelopes are indexed in order of her financial priorities.  The envelopes that must be filled no matter what, i.e.  prescription card and home insurance, are at the front of the box and filled first, with less important envelopes and those that could be squeezed if necessary, Christmas and birthdays for example, at the back of the box.  These may go without if wages are low that month. 

Whatever is left once the envelopes are filled is what she has to spend on food and luxuries.

Every few months, she updates her budget spreadsheet with rising costs such as car insurance, and amends the amount that she puts away. 

Once a year, she will take out any spare.  And treat herself to a little something from a famous department store!

It takes willpower, and maybe a little sacrifice if money is sparse.  But I do believe this way of budgeting is the way forward for occasional teachers.   

Have lots of debt with different creditors? Try debt snowballing, good for the soul, as well as the pocket! 

A word from Vision for Education about how they can help their supply teachers overcome the uncertainly: 

Supply Teachers certainly don't have the easiest job in the world.   At Vision for Education we understand how difficult it can be to want to progress your career and at the same time ensure you have enough money coming into your home.   With our Guaranteed Pay Scheme you will get the peace of mind that will allow you to budget for bills, holidays, home improvements and a lot more.   The scheme we provide is extremely popular and successful.   

GPS is built to work around our teachers and we are able to offer contracts from 1 to 5 days per week, depending on how much work the teacher would like.   This means that as long as the teachers are available exclusively to Vision for the amount of days on their GPS contract, then they are guaranteed to get paid for those days whether we find them work or not.   There are terms and conditions in relation to the contract and GPS is not available to everyone.   It works best for those people who can travel and are happy to give any school a try at least once!  With 9 branches nationwide, Vision are already providing a solution to financial planning/budgeting for a lot of supply teachers out there.  

Vision for Education - GPS

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