Supply teaching in the UK is an interesting career option, either to fill in a gap between permanent positions, or indeed as a permanent option. Whilst supply teaching is a long established method of covering staffing shortages, contract staff are often treated differently to other staff members and may find cultural issues challenging on some assignments – and that is not just due to the pupils!
Supply teachers will usually be measured by higher standards than other teachers – at least on the informal side. The highest standards of professionalism will be expected, and no slack will be cut in the Staff Room. So, to become a supply teacher arguably requires a higher degree of individual resilience than for regular tenures.
Naturally, schools vary in culture but in most cases the arrival of a supply teacher is a relief, as it reduces pressure on the other staff who might have to cover lessons and management duties. Typically, the engagements may be for a few months to cover maternity leave, the extended illness of a permanent staff member, departures of other staff and the like. Generally, maternity (and paternity) cover is planned well in advance.
Supply teachers have to be very adaptable, and have to come up to speed very quickly in a new school – and it is not only the layout. There are the politics to be managed, specific pupil issues and the head’s style and school objectives. Besides those challenges, there may be a marking backlog to deal with. A well-run school will provide a supply teacher handbook or staff briefing document to help achieve a smooth transition.
About the Author : Emily Inglis is a supporter of supply teaching