Thoughts on Supply Teachers - by PP

Thoughts on supply teachersHaving access to an effective supply teacher is something to be treasured.

To achieve this, it is vital that the school and supply teacher maintain good dialogue. What has proved to be most effective, in my experience, is to use local teachers – retired, or otherwise known to the school – and nurture them. The benefits are huge – through regular contact they understand the ethos of the school, discipline procedures, marking expectations, many of the children and the strengths (and foibles) of the staff.

There are so many demands on schools nowadays that necessitate regular supply cover e.g. PPA sessions, time to meet with Senior Managers to discuss Target Setting, Professional Development meetings etc.

Good practice would ensure the Supply Teacher has as much information as possible to the greater benefit of the school. Ideally, each school should provide a “Welcome Pack” full of need-to-know information. Basics should be included, such as session times, the routine before the first bell, playground duty rotas and the expectations when children are outside, how the children are to travel to and from classroom, how and when the register it taken and the procedures for absenteeism. Sitting alongside this information, perhaps not written down, but discretely communicated: which staff member prefers no-one else to use their coffee mug and not to fall into the Sheldon Cooper trap (Big Bang Theory) of “You’re in my spot.” In addition, to avoid unnecessary confusion/sabotage, it would be helpful for Head or another teacher to nominate 1 or 2 reliable children to advise on usual practice to counteract the cries of: “Ms W always lets us do that.” 

A vital element of good supply teacher/ school liaison is a sharing of the marking policy to ensure consistency. I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect the supply teacher to mark work undertaken under their care. But, class teachers should also “play fair” and not leave work that involves hours of marking.  A marking sheet for Maths would also be most welcome.

To ensure a calm and fruitful time in school, any supply teacher should also be made aware of children who have particular needs, and be aware of any support assistant, their timetable and their usual role within the classroom.

It goes without saying, that the supply teacher should be au fait with current practice appropriate to different year groups. Quantum physics doesn't go down well in Year 4!

In case of a last minute call the best supply teacher will have their own bank of tried and tested ideas that will excite and stimulate. Good practice for schools would be having weekly/daily timetables available with resources at the ready.

Though retired now, I have done supply work in the dim and distant past before becoming a full-time classroom teacher and senior manager. One lasting memory is of being telephoned at 8.45 by a school 8 miles away. I explained that as I don’t drive and no-one was available to bring me it would be nearly lunchtime by the time I arrived by 2 bus journeys and a short walk. Such was their desperation to obtain a supply teacher (I got the feeling “any supply teacher”) that the secretary came to fetch me!

In conclusion, when the school / supply teacher partnership is working well, the confusion and anxiety that might otherwise affect children and their learning is taken away.

You never know, you might even see the supply teacher attending professional development meetings, helping at the Christmas Fair or the school concert.



Allison let's us into the secret of successful supply teaching in her school.

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