Gail Larkin, the vice president of the NAHT and a headteacher for 20 years, delivered a talk at a Randstad Education Seminar in August 2013. In this section of the speech, Gail focuses on supply teaching jobs and the bad press that sometimes surrounds this career. She offers advice to supply teachers on how to turn these criticisms into positive actions.
Video transcript: Gail Larkin on supply teaching jobs.
Unfortunately, supply teaching does often get a bad press, so it's up to people like you to improve it. There's an article today I looked up before I came out this morning, on Mail Online and it's an Ofsted report about supply teaching and it is quite critical. They're often critical about everything so don't take it personally. They're critical about all aspects of education at the moment, but I think some of what they have to say is quite interesting.
One of the things they have to say which is good for you to hear is that they notice that the quality of supply cover was poor where they weren't being employed by good quality agencies and that was where they found that there was poor quality teaching is those who weren't employed. Of course you are working with a great agency. It's worth looking at that report because it is quite critical.
"supply teachers make up 4.5% of the teaching force"
I have to quote this at you but, “Ofsted found that supply teachers in secondary schools are four times more likely than permanent teachers to give substandard lessons.”
I think we can learn from this about what they said the reason for it is. I think a lot of what I read about this was that they weren't prepared beforehand. I and Ofsted blame the schools a lot for that, but I think you could do a lot yourselves to help with that. They said the schools didn't prepare the supply cover properly so the teachers weren't well enough informed. They didn't know things like who the children were with SEN in the class. What the academic ability was of the classes or such that they were teaching. That was their criticism. Obviously, the onus should be on the school to make sure that you’re prepared, if you were coming to teach any of my children in my school for a day it's a day lost if it's a rubbish day. I want it to be a good day for everybody. I want it to be a good experience for you and a good experience for the pupils and staff in that classroom. I would make sure that you would be well prepared, but obviously the onus is sometimes on yourself.
Supply teachers make up 4.5% of the teaching force, although that figure is much higher in those parts of the country where schools have the most difficulty finding staff, including London and the home counties. Ofsted inspectors found many supply teachers were unable to control classes. Back to behavior management being a priority, or to set work that stretched pupils beyond simply keeping them occupied.
"keep yourself up to date with educational issues"
Isn't it horrible when you find out that there you are in the school and the Ofsted inspectors are coming in and you go oh no. Has it ever happened to anyone? You're lucky. Oh it has? It's awful isn't it? I can't begin to tell you the panic that sets in for everyone especially the Head when you get that phone call. Some children will deliberately play out. Others, if you've got them right will be deliberately good, particularly if you're bright, you'll find that works quite well.
Somewhat unfamiliar with the National Curriculum. So keep yourself up to date, need training, keep yourself up to date with educational issues. National Curriculum is obviously very current at the moment. Exam syllabuses and the crucial daily English and math lessons. They put the blame for this on disreputable agencies. You will be pleased to know that pitfall you've already avoided I've got with being with Randstad and the schools themselves, they put the blame there. Schools came in for criticism, Ofsted said many were poor at helping supply teachers do their jobs properly. Staff on short contracts are often not told about pupils’ academic capabilities or school procedures for dealing with bad behavior. We all come in for a lot of criticism from Ofsted.
I think a lot of that is quite relevant and should be taken on board.