Supply teaching brings a number of challenges as well as benefits. It can be nerve-wracking to wait by the phone for the next job offer, however, when this comes it’s a welcome and rewarding boost for those who have chosen to pursue flexible teaching jobs. This article concerns some of the key issues for experienced teachers who are contemplating a different, more autonomous way of working. It will also be of interest to people who are new to teaching and on the brink of making important career choices.

Expert advice.

As with any major decisions in life, it is essential to get expert help and advice when venturing into a new field. No one buys a new house without the benefit of a surveyor’s report and it would be foolish to embark on a new career without the benefit of the specialist knowledge and assistance a recruitment agency can offer. Whether looking for teaching or teaching assistant jobs, there is no substitute for the comprehensive and authoritative guidance available from agencies who know the territory.

For example, agencies know the times of the year when supply teachers are likely to be most in-demand and they understand the variations in the market in different regions so they can advise job hunters when to stay by the phone and when to use their time preparing and refining educational tools for use in the classroom.

Things to think about.

Among the challenges inherent in supply teaching is the fact that higher levels of supply teachers are needed more frequently in schools experiencing difficulties. This means it’s important to be familiar with a school’s behaviour policy in advance of turning up and set some basic ground rules to establish what is acceptable classroom behaviour, and what is not.

When not working, many supply teachers spend their time building up resources to use when asked to teach in a school they haven’t visited before. Stored on mobile devices, such as a USB flash drive, these might include, for example, ideas for ice-breakers when meeting new pupils and techniques for managing behaviour positively.

One other important strategy is to stay connected to the general 'currents' in education to get a sense of how things are moving in terms of legislation or political initiatives. Demonstrating an awareness of policy changes at both local and national level can have a positive impact and help develop a solid connection to the latest techniques and modes of thought.

Staffroom politics.

Most supply teachers enjoy the fact that they don’t have to get involved with the machinations that can abound in the staff room. This is a great bonus and anyone who has experienced the day-to-day political manoeuvrings that are sometimes a feature of the school hierarchy really appreciates the advantages of being able to wave a fond farewell when it suits.

Health and safety.

When working solo it can be easy to overlook some of the administrative tasks that are needed to ensure supply teachers are eligible for work. This includes keeping up to date with Disclosure requirements. The former “Criminal Records Bureau” (CRB) checks on those working with children or vulnerable people have been replaced by the “Disclosure and Barring Service” (DBS). A good recruitment agency will require supply teachers to provide evidence of current clearance and will additionally prompt teachers when the time comes for renewal.