When a permanent teacher is absent, either for a matter of days or a matter of months, schools do not have an in-house bank of staff they can call on to cover the teaching. Instead, they rely on supply teachers to fill the gaps caused by staff absence, whether these are a Maths teacher not able to cover basic trigonometry or an English teacher honing their students English Literature skills

Many supply teachers are, for various reasons, happy with their status. For others supply teaching is seen as a springboard to securing a permanent teaching job

If you are looking to make the transition between supply teacher and permanent teacher this guide explains the similarities and differences between the two roles and explains how you can make the change.

How do permanent and supply teaching jobs differ?

For those not in the teaching profession, it often comes as a surprise to learn that supply teachers have the same teaching responsibilities as a permanent member of staff.

  • they must prepare lesson plans that match the identified learning objectives and outcomes of the school’s schemes of work
  • they must teach children in accordance with the national curriculum in maintained schools but this can be different in a non-maintained school, such as an academy or free school
  • they must provide progression from previous lessons and learning
  • they are also responsible for assessing and marking the work of students and providing them with feedback and support

The main difference between supply teachers and permanent teachers is actually in the length of time that they have contact with a group of students.

It is this lack of continuity that can cause challenges for supply teachers. A supply teacher has to constantly adapt their method of teaching to meet the changing needs of different situations, schools, subjects and age groups.

To add to this challenge rather than having a good working knowledge of each class they teach it is often only very fragmented contact they have with each class.

What are the benefits of being a supply teacher?

Permanent teaching does seem to be the end goal for many supply teachers, due to its familiarity and consistent nature. However, there are many benefits to being a supply teacher:

  • As a supply teacher, you’ll be thrown into a range of different situations and settings which allows you to gain a wealth of experience. There’s nothing like teaching a class of Year 2’s one day and then Year 6’s the next - will keep you on your toes
  • Although the responsibilities of a supply teacher are almost identical to a permanent teacher, the paperwork isn’t. As a supply teacher your bureaucratic requires should be less allowing you to focus on teaching
  • The flexibility of working as a supply teacher suits some people’s lifestyles much more, you can choose when and where you work meaning that you have the ability to ‘try before you buy’

Why make the transition to a permanent teaching job?

Supply teaching suits many professionals. It can be a refreshing change to not be based in just one school or to always teach the same students. It can feel liberating not to be tied for a long time to any given class.

There is also the freedom to choose when you work, which can be ideal for those with family, or indeed other work commitments.

Work is often regular but not guaranteed each week. Although supply teachers are sometimes paid at an equivalent pro rata rate to permanent teachers they may often find themselves without work, and therefore unpaid.

In addition to this supply teachers are not legally entitled to SSP (Statutory sick pay) or SMP (Statutory maternity pay).
The inconsistent nature of supply teaching can also mean that teachers find themselves having to accept positions that involve a good deal of travel in order to maintain their income. 

For many, the need to continually adapt to new and unfamiliar situations can become stressful. The reason many teachers enter the profession is for the rewards associated with helping people learn and progress.

The dislocated contact that a supply teacher has with students can result in the loss of this most fulfilling aspect of their job.

Finally whilst opportunities for ongoing professional development and training are available as a matter of course for permanent staff, this is not the case for supply teachers. 

Are you looking for a permanent teaching job?

If you are a supply teacher you are probably in the best position there can be to secure a permanent role. 

You will have colleagues and friends in many local schools and you will have the opportunity to demonstrate your commitment and worth to a number of heads of department and senior staff.

Supply teaching, for this reason, offers a great first step to a teaching career. It allows Newly Qualified Teachers (NQTs) to gain work experience before they can secure a permanent job and, should you be between roles, it allows you to continue to earn money and practice your skills.

Still not sure whether temporary or permanent teaching is for you? Take a look through the Randstad career hub, we have a whole host of information on teaching positions and general career advice.