Want to become a supply teacher? We look at:

  • supply teaching job description
  • supply teaching options - short-term vs long-term
  • pros and cons of supply teaching

What is supply teaching?

Supply teaching involves teaching a class when the regular teacher is unavailable. It can be an attractive proposition for many teachers, offering far greater flexibility than a permanent teaching post. Teachers can earn a good living from this career choice, and often the flexibility and autonomy is a big draw as well. With daily supply, you can have income or days off whenever you choose.

While most teachers can only take holidays out of term-time, the opposite applies to supply teaching. When it comes to booking vacations, their flexible work schedule allows them to benefit from off-peak prices and the option to avoid busy periods.  

As a supply teacher, you can choose to work for a week or a few weeks, then do something else, or try another school. Less experienced teachers can gain valuable experience without committing themselves to a permanent post.

So, how easy is it to have this appealing flexible lifestyle, and a steady stream of jobs offered?

If you are looking to work as a supply teacher, there are many advantages in engaging with supply teaching agencies like Randstad. They do all the job-hunting for you, and get in touch with offers of interviews from schools. Finally, when you receive an employment offer, you can let the school or local education authority know about your decision.

Supply teaching options.

Daily supply: covering lessons if teachers are off school (one to two days).

In this type of supply teaching, you’ll only work on the days you choose or sample a variety of schools. You don’t have to do marking or planning lessons – because the absent permanent teacher does this for you.

Short-Term Supply – up to half a term.

You are guaranteed work for this duration, in one specific place. The same classes are taught every week, meaning you can build relationships with colleagues and students. You’ll be asked to take on some of the responsibilities of the absent teacher, like marking and short-term planning. 

Some schools use supply to give teachers a ‘trial run’ before offering them a permanent post, so this could also be an option.

Long-Term Supply – half a term or longer.

This type of supply teaching means a fixed timetable, with more stability and less uncertainty. Long-term supply teachers are often offered permanent contracts afterwards. You have time to really get to know a school, your colleagues, and the pupils. You’ll have responsibilities of a permanent teacher (parent’s evenings, reports, etc.) with most of the benefits. 

Long-term supply teachers even hold positions of responsibility, and get a leaving do – if they leave!

Advantages and disadvantages of supply teaching.

Potential pitfalls.

Finding supply work can be an issue, especially if you go it alone: touting yourself around schools, finding the right contacts, trying to sell yourself, then coping with rejection. You may not find work exactly when you want it, or, if you are looking for consistency or a regular commitment (i.e. wanting to work every Wednesday), you may not find work on every day of a particular week.

But a major pitfall of a permanent contract is that you are tied to a particular school, and are required to give a minimum notice period (at least half a term) if you wish to leave. Less experienced teachers often find that their pay is lower than if they were doing supply teaching, too, so it can make more financial sense to do supply teaching.

Getting it right.

Every job has a first day and regardless of how experienced you are, it's normal to feel nervous. Supply teaching is no different. Working with agencies can alleviate most pitfalls and anxieties around supply teaching. With the pressure of searching for jobs, prospective candidates looking to work as supply teachers can simply register and wait to receive calls with job offers.

The supply teaching agencies do all the hard work. They simply contact you with offers of work, and all you do is turn up, do the job and get paid. Recruitment consultants have good relationships with schools and will support you with their processes. You also have the security of a buffer between you and the school to mediate and negotiate for you.

According to NEU, 76% of supply teachers reported that they obtained most of their work through agencies in 2017, up from 50% in 2010.

As a supply teacher you may work at a variety of schools, but know that you will only have to deal with one agency and one payroll system. You are reliably paid a standard rate, promptly, by one professional agency. Thinking of supply teaching? Click here to get in touch with your local education branch.