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What to expect when going from permanent teaching to supply teaching

Friday, February 22, 2019

What to expect when going from permanent teaching to supply teaching

Supply teaching for the first time, be that as a qualified teacher, teaching assistant, HLTA or cover supervisor, can be unknown territory for most. It may seem like a world of uncertainty, but with the right support, it doesn’t have to be!

As expected, there are differences when going from working in a school permanently to working on supply. Understanding how things work should help you to feel excited and more prepared about heading into this new field, which offers more control, flexibility and time for yourself (yes, this is possible in the education world).

The SupplyNow Team is made up of people who have worked in school leadership and helped a range of education staff, both permanent and temporary, settle into new jobs. Together, we've gathered all our knowledge and are here to share it with you as you take this next step! 

Day-to-day supply vs long-term supply

The first thing you need to decide is whether you’d like to work in day-to-day or long-term posts. There’s also the option to do both.

The fundamental difference between day-to-day and long-term supply is that long-term supply staff can work bookings that span over a few weeks or even a few terms. As a long-term supply teacher, it’s likely that you will take on more of the regular teacher’s responsibilities. Therefore, you typically earn more. The minimum rate that SupplyNow offers Qualified Teachers working a long-term booking is £150 per day. For long-term teaching assistants, we offer £60-£80 per day and £80-£100 for Cover Supervisors.

The advantage of day-to-day substitute teaching is that it offers more flexibility so that you can fit work around your personal life, as opposed to the other way around. The downside is that the pay can be lower. One thing you can be sure of with SupplyNow is that you will always receive the best rate for any supply booking, thanks to our #FairPayNow Guarantee.

Day one of a new supply booking

As a permanent member of the school staff, you know what's expected of you, where you have to be and when.

However, when stepping into a school as a supply teacher/teaching assistant (our term is Supply Hero) for the first time, you’ll probably experience an element of what you felt on your first day of teaching. Trust in your ability – you still have all your skill and experience in the classroom.

Here’s what to remember when starting a booking at a new school:

  1. Arrive early so you can collect the set work or timetable of rooms you will be in for the day.
  2. Make sure that you bring your DBS certificate and ID (passport).
  3. Ask for the school’s welcome pack for supply staff in reception and familiarise yourself with the map of the building (ask for one if not in the welcome pack).
  4. Ask the receptionist where the staff toilets are and if they’re locked.
  5. Check whether there’s a department staff room in addition to the main staff room – it’s good to mix with your colleagues!

End of the lesson

As soon as the lesson begins, you’ll fall right back into familiar habits. You’ve more than likely covered a lesson in your teaching career before or assisted in a classroom that’s not typically yours – this isn’t any different.  

At the end of the lesson or school day, there are two actions you can make that the regular class teacher will really appreciate. These mostly apply to day-to-day supply staff but are good practices for everyone.  

The first step is to ensure the classroom is left nice and tidy. The second is to leave a note for the absent teacher/teaching assistant with any key points from your time with their class. Your message could say how far you made it through the lesson plan, talk about behaviour and whether anyone stood out for the right/wrong reasons or if there were any questions you were unable to answer. 

Do supply teachers have to plan or mark?

This topic is at the forefront of most people’s minds when moving into supply teaching. The answer depends on the length of your booking and whether you’re working long-term or day-to-day. Equally, it can differentiate between primary and secondary schools.

Long-term bookings can vary but often call for more responsibility. However, you might find that a permanent member of staff is happy to work alongside you to help with planning.

If you’re working a short-term booking at a primary school, they’ll usually appreciate it if you can flick through and tick what work has been completed, leaving follow-on notes for the class teacher.

In a secondary school, marking is not usually possible as you move from lesson to lesson or have different classes each period. Again, leaving a note on a pile of books or commenting on great work can be extremely useful to the teacher when they return.

Your supply teacher kit

Now for the fun part, because what educational professional can resist stationery or organisation?

We recommend that you always keep these items with you when working on supply:

  • A bundle of pens/pencils – there will always be students who won’t have one!
  • Board rubber and board pens (many staff lock these away or keep their own with them)A packet of tissues
  • Comfortable shoes!

Find more great ideas for your supply teacher kit here.

PAYE vs Umbrella Companies

Finally, it’s time to look into how you’re paid, and you have two options: PAYE (pay as you earn) or an umbrella company.

With PAYE, you're paid directly by your agency, streamlining the process and removing a third-party. If you ever have any queries, they’re simple to resolve as everything is in-house.

If you choose to work through an umbrella company, you can be employed by multiple agencies at once while collecting your pay from one source. Before payday, the agency/agencies will pay the umbrella company, who will then transfer the wages into your account.

The rate with an umbrella company will seem higher, but this is to cover employment costs (Employer’s NI and the Apprenticeship Levy) and cover the umbrella company’s margin. SupplyNow will always make sure that your payment is entirely transparent so that you can see who is receiving what – you receive a fair rate and the school has a fair fee (just £20 per day).

Ultimately, the choice is yours. There can be pros and cons to working with both; however, we will always recommend PAYE, as it is more in line with HMRC’s guidelines.

Have any more questions about pay or working on supply? Our team is more than happy to help – contact us here.

Best of luck!


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