How to Become a Supply Teacher

(6 minutes to read)

Whether you’re working in a primary or secondary school, teaching can be such a rewarding vocation, giving you the opportunity to help pupils to learn and develop the skills they need for their future; encouraging, inspiring and supporting their educational needs.

A supply teacher will be hired in order to cover the absence of a permanent teacher, or the school could be in-between hiring. This means that you could be there for a varied length of time – from a couple of days to a few months.

They will have all the same responsibilities as their permanent counterparts, such as preparing lesson plans for the day and teaching students following the national curriculum guidelines.

As well as these responsibilities, a supply teacher will also:

  • Mark students’ work
  • Give necessary and constructive feedback
  • Encourage pupils’ strengths and help them to work through the areas they may struggle with
  • Provide students with the support they may need
  • Potentially prepare them for important exams
  • Supervise events and projects that may take place in or out of the school, such as day trips out.

There are certain qualities you should have to be a good teacher, for example, being able to relate to, having patience and empathy for your students is just as important as having a depth of knowledge in the subjects you teach.

You will need to be confident and show enthusiasm in your lessons in order to keep pupils interested; and having exceptional organisational skills is pivotal for the hectic life of a teacher!

Qualifications needed to become a supply teacher

A supply teacher will need to have all the same qualifications as a teacher working in a permanent role.

You will need to gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) on an ITT programme in addition to your first degree; this is unless you have a Bachelor of Education (Bed) or a BSc/BA with QTS.

Once you’ve passed your ITT and have your QTS, you’ll then need to complete an induction year to become fully qualified to teach.

The requirements differ slightly depending on whether you live in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, however, to train as a teacher in England, you will need:

  • A degree of a 2:2 or above. If you wish to teach at secondary school level, it’s important that your degree is either in, or relevant to the subject that you wish to teach. If this isn’t the case, you may need to take an SKE course either before or alongside your initial teacher training.
  • At least a GCSE grade C/4 in English and Mathematics. If it’s the primary school route that you want to take, you’ll also need a GCSE grade C/4 in a science subject.
  • Pass the Professionals Skills Test during your ITT application, which will put your numeracy and literacy skills to the test.
  • Complete a declaration of health questionnaire.
  • Declare any previous convictions and undergo a criminal records check.

The benefits of being a supply teacher

There are so many benefits to working as a supply teacher – being your own boss and having complete control over your career can be a key factor for many people choosing the self-employed route.

A permanent teacher will very much be constrained to taking annual leave during half terms, bank holidays and the summer holidays – when travelling will be a lot more expensive. However, as a supply teacher you will experience a lot more flexibility in terms of when you want to work.

Having this kind of flexibility will create a much better work-life balance, giving you the freedom to work whenever you choose.

There’s also the experience you’ll gain from the vast variety of different people you’ll meet and schools you’ll work in and you’ll get the opportunity to live and work in different parts of the country if you so choose!

Also, if you’re an older teacher at retirement age and feel like you’ve done your time working in a permanent and constrictive role, but aren’t quite willing to it give up altogether, supply work is a great way of keeping teaching in your life, but on your terms.

Finding work

Many people will look to jobs boards to find supply work, this can be through general employment websites or you can look for specific teaching websites to find the latest roles going.

Social media is another avenue, using networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which will be an effective and free way of advertising your skills. If using Twitter or Facebook, it would be best to set up a separate page to your personal one.

LinkedIn is designed specifically for businesses and professionals, so you can create a network of people and follow the areas you need to find work.

Another method is to join an agency. Look around and take recommendations from other supply teachers if you can in order to work out the best one for you and ask the agency what schools they work with to make sure they will meet your requirements.

When looking around, find out how much the agency will need to take from you for each job and know your rights with regards to pay and your overall contract conditions by taking a look at the Agency Worker Regulations, which applies to supply teachers working through either employment agencies or umbrella companies.

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