How I updated my skills for free

Primary supply teacher, Jane Rice, explains how she found the motivation and funds to continue her learning.

What are the challenges of continuing professional development for a supply teacher?
When I was working in a permanent role, I was responsible for literacy and also took charge of PE and ICT, at various times. As a result of these extra roles I was sent on loads of course and also had to train other teachers. After having children and returning to school as a supply teacher, however, I found that I was getting rusty. I asked the schools that I was attached to whether there was any funding for my CPD and was politely but firmly told that ‘other areas’ were a priority for the school.

How did you access CPD as a supply teacher?
I read about a free CPD course in my area, designed for supply teachers and run by General Teaching Council (GTC), in Teaching magazine. Course members all met up and we planned our individual ‘learning journeys’. We did this in partnership with a buddy with whom we teamed up for the duration of the course.

What was your objective?
I’d stopped reading about my profession and felt it was enough simply to go to work. So my goal was to get up to date by reading journals such as the TES and the NUT magazine. I also visited various websites with good resources such as TES Connect and Teachernet, especially the resources for modelling lessons.

Did this change?
A short while into the course, however, I started doing maths with year 7 in my supply work and wasn’t confident that my teaching methods were up to date. I decided this would be a perfect focus for my CPD: it was what I needed to do in my day job and fulfilled the criteria for the learning journey. My tutor was very happy to let me adapt my journey to incorporate this.

What format did your learning take?
I re-read some revision guides and enrolled onto a maths course lasting two terms. I found an adult education course, called Maths Skills for Work, which was free! Various people attended the course including parents who wanted to help their children with homework, a teaching assistant and office workers. The course covered basic techniques you’d use in working life including percentages, fractions, calculations and shapes. The teacher knew I was a primary school teacher and always made sure I had all the additional information I might need for teaching a class. She was absolutely brilliant.

How long did you spend studying?
The maths course was 20 hours over two terms plus another ten hours’ homework. My own revision took another six or seven hours. At the end of the course, there was a bonus in that any student completing this particular course was entitled to do another course on the curriculum at 90% discount! Consequently, I’m now enrolled on a Spanish course that should have cost £144 but is a snip at £14.

What other outcomes were there?
It kick-started my learning. Under my own steam (and funding) I’ve also been on three one day courses run by the GTC. Respectively, the courses were: how to support children with dyslexia, dyspraxia and autism. The more skills I have, the better a teacher I will be. I’m also motivated by the desire not to have an empty CV when I apply for permanent jobs in the future.

What was your biggest encouragement?
The whole GTC course met up just twice and the second time we each had to give a short talk. I was inspired by what I heard from the other teachers, who were all confessing their shortcomings and how they’d set about rectifying these. Someone, for example, learned French online. I found their feedback really motivating.

Jane’s tips for CPD

  • Team up with a learning buddy
  • Be disciplined
  • Be selective about the area you choose: it must be relevant to your everyday role


Need more career advice? Visit Supply teaching