what is a supply teacher?

As a supply teacher, you stand in for a teacher who cannot make it to class. When a permanent teacher is on leave or absent for some time, a temporary vacancy becomes available at the school. A supply teacher takes the temporary teaching contract and performs the teacher's responsibilities during the period of absence.

You will work at different locations and different schools since the work is on a contractual basis. Becoming a supply teacher is usually challenging since you have to adapt to the teaching schedule of the permanent teacher. You also need to be conversant with various subject areas to substitute for any year, school and age group.

As a supply teacher, you have the same responsibilities as a permanent teacher. That means you prepare lesson plans and educate pupils according to the national curriculum. You also assess the students, offer feedback and encourage them to work towards their careers. Occasionally, you may be required to supervise pupils during school activities, field trips, excursions and cultural outings.

Supply teachers are usually needed in primary, secondary and further education institutions to assist when temporary vacancies are available. When looking for supply teacher vacancies, you should look for an agency. Most schools request referrals from the agencies before hiring supply teachers. Some supply teachers also look for employment independently.

Would working in education as a supply teacher suit your flexibility and adaptable skills? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in a supply teacher role.

supply teacher jobs

average salary of a supply teacher

According to ONS, a supply teacher earns a median pay of £35,740 per year. Your starting salary is £31,329 annually, while the most experienced supply teachers make up to £47,320 per year.

The pay rates usually vary depending on the school or agency you work for. Some agencies pay daily rates if you work full days and hourly for part-time work. The daily and hourly rates are calculated based on the annual salary you would get in a permanent role. Unfortunately, you will not enjoy the benefits of full-time employment like medical allowances and sick pay. However, some agencies pay for your medical insurance.

how to increase your salary as a supply teacher

A supply teacher's salary relies on personal attributes like skills, experience and academic qualifications. When you have prior experience, you receive more temporary teaching contracts and better daily or hourly rates. The agency and the school also determine your take-home salary. For instance, if the agency determines the pay rate, you will likely earn less since they deduct their fee. Independent schools may have higher pay rates than other schools due to their less limited resources.

smillng man sitting on stairs
smillng man sitting on stairs

types of supply teachers

Some of the types of supply teachers include:

  • primary school supply teacher: as a supply teacher covering for primary teachers, you need to be conversant with the subjects covered in the national curriculum. Sometimes, you have to cover for a teacher for an entire term. That means you will teach all subjects for the term. In primary schools, you help children between five and 11 years and prepare them for secondary education.
  • secondary school supply teacher: as a secondary supply teacher, you specialise in one or two subjects and cover for the teachers in their absence. Your work involves teaching, lab work and marking assignments to ensure students work towards their academic objectives.

working as a supply teacher

Working as a supply teacher involves covering teaching in various schools. If you like the sound of this flexibility, read on to find out more about the specific duties and career outlook in the role.


education and skills

Some of the routes of becoming a supply teacher include:

  • undergraduate degree: as a supply teacher, you need to obtain the qualified teacher status (QTS). An undergraduate degree with a QTS like BA in Education or Science qualifies you to become a teacher. If the undergraduate degree doesn't offer a QTS, you can complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. Other postgraduate routes include School-centred Initial Teacher Training.
  • work experience: you need some experience to land your first job. When you are in your final year of your teacher training qualification, you can register as a supply teacher to be considered for opportunities. Some supply teachers start as teaching assistants to gain experience.

skills and competencies

The skills and characteristics of a successful supply teacher include:

  • resilience: as a supply teacher, you often don't spend as much time with groups of pupils, so establishing a rapport can be more challenging. Sometimes, you have to work with children with educational or behavioural difficulties. If you are not resilient, it can be difficult to deal with tough situations.
  • patience: as a supply teacher, you need the patience to repeat the same concept multiple times for students to understand. You also have to deal with troublemakers, which requires patience and the ability to keep calm under challenging situations.
  • classroom management skills: as a supply teacher, you need classroom management skills for pupils to respect your position. The skills help you set classroom expectations and rules and hold pupils accountable for breaking the rules.
  • organisation skills: as a supply teacher, you can teach in multiple schools simultaneously. You need organisation skills to keep up with all your duties.
woman talking to children
woman talking to children


FAQs about working as a supply teacher

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