Supply teachers are in constant demand, with schools experiencing an even more urgent need in the next Academic year. An existing UK teacher shortage of 40,000 has been exacerbated by the challenges of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, and recent reports found that in 2021, one in six teachers in England quit the sector after just one year in the classroom.
Seasoned educators and those in private sector professions are increasingly considering a career in supply teaching – but what is life as a supply teacher really like, and what problems and opportunities do they really face every day?
Generate’s experienced contractor management specialists have helped thousands of supply teachers with payroll, tax, compliance and a wealth of other needs. Our experts reveal the three myths behind a career as a supply teacher and explore the realities behind the rumours.
3 Myths and Realities of a Supply Teaching Career
1. Myth: Supply Teachers are Just There to Cover Rather than Actually Teach
There can be a perception outside of education that supply teachers are there merely to act as childminders or disciplinarians, rather than valuable educational resources and mentors. The reality is that a ‘cover’ position will not just constitute handing out worksheets, but will require exactly the same responsibilities as a permanent member of school staff. Supply teachers must be prepared to lead the same high class standards as would be expected of the staff member they are covering, and will often be required to participate in lesson planning, marking, tracking progress, undergoing official inspections and supporting colleagues.
Whilst some temporary assignments to a school will last one or a few days, others span several months, meaning educators are supporting students for large chunks of an Academic year and even whole terms, and playing an integral role in the lives of children and young people. One day or week can feel like a lifetime in the eyes of a child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are vulnerable or experiencing mental health issues. The right teacher in the right place at the right time can mean the world to a student suffering and needing urgent support. All teaching staff who are dedicated to their job and to their students, regardless of how long they spend in their post, are a vital component of every school and the education system that prepares young people for their life ahead.
2. Myth: Supply Teaching Is Easy
Those in permanent education positions and those outside of the public sector may believe that a supply teaching role is much easier than the positions of their colleagues. However, temporary educating is just as challenging, requires just as much effort and often requires a much broader level of skills and knowledge than long-term school staff.
Covid-19 has exacerbated the stress levels and mental health crises of educators all over the world, and especially in the UK. Pre-pandemic, mental health in the education sector was a rapidly growing issue, and the combination of missed lesson time, reduced student attention span and growing child and family poverty have made it even more difficult to deliver enjoyable, productive lessons. Teaching staff already rank amongst the world’s most stressed professionals, and educators are significantly more likely to suffer from a severe mental health problem lasting more than a year. One in every two NQTs leaves to change careers within five years, further worsening heavy workloads and pressure on existing staff.
Unlike their permanent colleagues, supply teachers have the added stressors of:
- Lower Autonomy – Often not knowing which school and which responsibilities you’ll walk into until the night before or the weekday morning of a new role, temporary staff must often embrace entirely new scenarios outside their comfort zone or sphere of experience
- Lack of Support System – A new school every day, week or month means it’s harder to make friends, know who best to trust and rely upon in emergencies and during difficult times, and build a long-term personal and professional support system
- Need to Adapt – The flexibility afforded by a short-term career path often requires the ability to pick up subject matters and different issues instantly, as students may be in different stages of the curriculum and, for disadvantaged and SEND students, have very different needs.
3. Myth: Supply Teachers Can’t Transition to Permanent Career Paths
Some in the sector may believe that supply teaching is a set vocation for life, with few opportunities to transition to permanent roles. However, this couldn’t be further from the reality. The very nature of their roles means supply teachers pick up so much knowledge and experience from a wide variety of situations, working with student age groups, backgrounds and abilities. Supply staff don’t just work in struggling schools – many have spent considerable time in Outstanding and Good Ofsted-rated schools, establishments with high numbers of Russell Group University entrants, high qualification pass rates and top-grade GCSEs and A Levels, and the best-known and best-regarded private schools and schools supporting SEND students. This incredible breadth of experience – alongside the adaptability, skill set and learning mindset needed for each new experience – positions supply teachers as ideal candidates for demanding permanent teaching positions.
Finding a permanent post is also easier than some may think. Education recruitment consultancies will usually provide jobs across Primary, Secondary and Early Years in a large number of schools, and will offer both temporary and permanent jobs throughout the Academic year. Schools are increasingly preferring to hire supply teachers on short-term contracts first, before offering them permanent positions after a term or two, to ensure the right fit for individuals and schools. Education recruiters will have built an extensive network of schools, colleges and establishments that mean whatever role you’re looking for, they’ll be able to help you find it.
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Leave your legal questions and compliance issues with us, so that you can concentrate on delivering world-class education. Find out more about our payroll and contractor services. Discover the Top Teaching Challenges for the Academic Year 2021/2022