Free training for supply teachers

Local authorities
LAs are a major provider of supply teachers to schools and have a vested interest in keeping this pool of teachers up to speed. The quality and volume of training available varies depending on the LA. But the offering from Hertfordshire County Council’s Grid for Learning is a good example of what can be found by the motivated - and well situated - teacher.

Support and training for supply teachers in Herts come through two main avenues: the Supply Club and spare places on regular CPD courses. The Supply Club meets once a week and runs seminars that begin at 4.30pm, for the ultra keen who can drop in after school, and all day courses.  Frequent topics are white board skills, other ICT courses and behaviour management techniques. The training menu for supply teachers also includes topics such as ‘circle time’. Hertfordshire also offers vacant places on CPD courses free-of-charge to supply teachers who ask.

Your agency can be a useful source of basic refresher training, especially for returners and teachers new to supply. The good ones provide tutoring in electronic whiteboard use, taster courses and occasional seminars on special needs or teachers wishing to convert from secondary to primary. When you sign up with an agency, it’s worth asking what they provide. There’s generally more on offer for generalist or primary teachers: LB Learning in Gloucestershire, do starter courses for new supply teacher on their books.

However, as John Dunn, director of Select Education readily admits, agencies should not be looked to for CPD: they are commercial organizations and any cost they incur in training has to be passed on. So don’t expect up-to-the-minute or state-of-the-art training.

All the unions offer their members training and this may be included in the price of membership, so it’s worth checking what your professional body has to offer. At the NUT, supply teachers are eligible to attend a wide variety of courses, including regular CPD. Free ICT Skills evenings have a 20% take up by supply teachers and the union runs 40 per term around the country. Topics include interactive whiteboards introduction to Excel, more advanced Word skills, Internet tips and PowerPoint.

Supply teachers can also attend, free of charge, a specially designed, three day residential course, which is open to non members who pay. Part-Timers, Supply Teachers and Returners course runs out of the NUT’s training centre in Lincolnshire and includes modules on behaviour management, assertiveness and knowing your rights. 

The ‘Managing Classroom Behaviour’  module is a regular two-day CPD course that addresses the particular issues facing supply teachers, when coming to different classrooms ‘cold’. It is free to members of the NUT and also available to non-members for a fee.

General Teaching Council England
Findings from the GTC Teachers’ Surveys in 2006 and 2007  showed that supply teachers were the least satisfied of all groups with their professional development and reported a substantial level of unmet need.

The GTC runs three online networks for members and its Engage Network is designed to provide resources and training for all registered teachers. Certain topics, such as Behaviour for Learning are especially relevant to supply teachers.

Additionally, the GTC runs the Teachers’ Learning Academy, which focuses on longer term and classroom-based learning. The system of coaching and mentoring is intended to provide recognition of teachers’ development and GTC confirms that supply teachers can and do take part. Those who have submitted to the TLA have found that coaching and mentoring is easily achievable through the school they are working in (especially if they are working once or twice a week in a particular school, says GTC.

Teachers’ TV
An excellent, free and ‘always on’ resource for UK teachers is the TV channel funded by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES)  Its editorially independent and listings for the channel’s programming are printed in Teachers magazine, also produced for the DfES and free to teachers.

National Curriculum subjects are covered in its CPD content, as well as specialist topics including behaviour management. A weekly, half-hour news programme, with documentaries on the educational issues and controversies of the day is especially useful for supply teachers who may miss out on staffroom debate.

Almost all of the programmes on topics across the National Curriculum are available to download or stream and watch online for free. Each programme is accompanied by a set of free resources and support materials such as a magazine. Teachers’ TV also offers educational podcasts for a subscription.


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