Supply Teacher (1)


Schools, teachers, pupils and parents are all adjusting as the school year unfolds. Like everyone else, supply teachers are riding the wave in a situation which is unusual, but not entirely unfamiliar.

Supply teachers are used to turning up to a new school – on a regular basis – without knowing quite what to expect. They respond quickly and assimilate the information they’re given in order to provide emergency cover and essential continuity in the classroom. This particular set of skills means that daily supply teachers are more valuable than ever.

Of course, coronavirus has added another layer of complexity for schools to deal with. In addition to particular policies and procedures, supply teachers now need to absorb a school’s biosecurity and infection control guidance when they arrive. As outsiders, they have a responsibility to take the rules seriously even if some people have become a little blasé in the weeks since term began. They should also be sensitive to any perceived risk they pose as a temporary member of staff. 

Senior leaders are understandably nervous about staff absence and making sure everyone is safe and the timetable is covered. Twitter is full of tips about coping with extra anxiety, as the virtual community recognises for that for some people, it’s a real issue. By playing their part in the school’s attempts to cope in these difficult circumstances, supply teachers can have a positive impact in the classroom and the wider community.

When you get the call

Experienced supply teachers will always advise you to get to a new school in good time, and it’s more important than ever just now. You’ll be able to read through the information the cover supervisor gives you – both on social distancing, and the nature of your own assignment.  

When you arrive, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll need to know the important stuff like how the registration and dismissal processes work, but it’s also crucial to find out where the toilets are, and how you get hold of a cup of coffee at break time. Even if you have been to that particular school before, things may have changed this year. Everyone has a lot on their mind at the moment, and even if your concerns have not occurred to the teacher next to you, it’s important for you to get the information you need.

Before the lesson, you should look over the materials and make sure you know what the priorities are and where to find what you need. When the lesson begins, you’ll want to be able to flow through the material with confidence. By doing so, you’ll stay on task and minimise distractions.

Don’t be shy!

As the newbie, you should be prepared to make the first move. Chat with members of staff as you’re waiting for your lesson to start – you’ll benefit from their insider information, and they may be able to tip you off about the challenging students, or those who need a little more attention.

Think about how you communicate with the class. Some teachers go through instructions verbally at the start. Others find that students find it hard to retain that information – or use “I can’t remember” as an excuse. If the instructions are written down and visible for the duration of the lesson, they can refer to the board whenever they need a reminder.

Don’t forget that if you have a teaching assistant, they can be a valuable resource in lots of different ways. They’ll be familiar with classroom routines, and will have a handle on the personalities involved. Talk to them - even make friends with them! Having an ally in the room can be incredibly empowering and a TA can provide material help and moral support when you need it most.

Enjoy your time with the students. Clearly, you have teaching and learning to get done, but they’re likely to be interested in you and what you’re about. There’s no harm in answering a few of their questions, especially if it helps you establish yourself in the classroom.

Talk to them - even make friends with them!

Unfortunately, there are students who will try to give cover teachers a tough time. You’re in and out – sometimes before they get to know you –  and that can lead to behaviour issues. If things start to slip, it’s important not to take on too much on your own. Asking for help is not an admission of failure. It would be far better to get a member of the school’s staff on side before things get out of hand.

A hand over works both ways

When you’re finished, remember that you’re handing back to another teacher! Finish off any marking from the lesson and make sure the room is tidy and organised. Any work books or other resources should be put back where you found them.

Equally importantly, make sure you feed back. It needn’t take long, but leaving a note outlining what you covered and what the behaviour was like will help with continuity. You could also highlight the achievements of the students who worked well, as well as any who caused problems.

Valuable opportunities

Supply teaching does have its challenges, but it also helps teachers develop resilience, flexibility and initiative. Some people really thrive on having the opportunity to experience lots of different schools and to meet the staff and interact with the students. If you’re looking for a permanent position, it will help you get a clear picture of what is important to you in a teaching role, and will allow you to expand your knowledge of local schools and your network of teaching professionals.

For other teachers, providing supply cover gives them the opportunity to use their training and experience in a way that fits into their life and other commitments. Not only does it give them freedom to structure when they work, but it can be incredibly rewarding to step in when needed and do a great day’s work without the longer term commitments of a permanent role.


Schools offer supply assignments for as many reasons as there are educational professionals. If you’re available immediately, there’s a good chance that a school will need you straight away.

Submit your CV and register with Pertemps Education today. We will do our best to find you the right opportunity when and where you need it.