Are you using your supply teacher wisely?

If you want to make the most of a temporary staff member, you need to SWOT up. Here’s our guide to effective deployment

Grainne Hallahan

Are You Deploying Your Supply Teacher Sensibly?

Making the decision to pay to get in a supply teacher isn’t something you do on a whim. You will want your supply costs to be a worthwhile investment and to make sure that the money spent is of benefit to the whole department.

First, think about the kind of teacher you want. If you’re looking long-term, it’s especially important to shop around until you find the right candidate.

It is worth using multiple agencies – and carefully wording your request – to ensure you get the right fit. Taking the time to make sure you have the best person for your school from the start will definitely make things easier down the line.

Shuffle your pack

Although it might be easier to cross out one name and replace it with a new one, that might not be the best approach. But before you go shredding the entire timetable, it’s time to give your supply situation the SWOT treatment.

What is SWOT analysis?

  • SWOT stands for strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. By assessing the various merits and shortcomings in your team, you can work out how best to use your new recruit.

1. SWOT your team

The department you have now might not be the same as the department you had at the start of term, even when you take the need for supply out of the equation. You might have staff members who have gained promotions, have been granted a secondment or those who have maternity/paternity leave on the horizon.  

Therefore, when you’re writing up the timetable for supply, this might be your opportunity to rearrange things to take into account some long-term planning.

2. SWOT your classes

It can be the case that certain classes haven’t just had lots of cover this academic year but have had cover and supply in previous years, too. It is clearly desirable to avoid this happening again to the same group, so before the supply teacher’s timetable is drawn up, SWOT your classes and year groups to see where you can minimise the disruption of a cover teacher.

Alternatively, you might have a tricky class owing to behavioural or external factors. They’re being taught drama in a science lab or they have several special educational needs and disability students who require extra equipment or a learning support assistant. Where possible, you will want to ensure those classes are entrusted to a member of staff with the pre-existing relationships and experience to deal with it.

3. SWOT the cover

There are lots of factors that will influence your decision about timetable allocation for supply: how long is the supply teacher expected to be covering for? What time of year is it? What events are coming up on your school calendar? 

If the teacher who needs covering has mainly key stage 4 (KS4) exam classes, it can make more sense to cover other staff members in KS3, and then cover the KS4 with teachers from within your department. If Year 10 has two weeks' work experience, it makes no sense to give the supply teacher a Year 10 class. 

4. SWOT your supply teacher

The worst thing you can do is not bother to talk to your supply teacher about their own teaching experience. Just because someone is a supply teacher, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have recent and extensive experience in your subject.

Speak to them and find out where their strengths lie, and then make the final decisions about where to put them, and how much support and monitoring to give them, while they’re with you.

Tes enables you to request short and long-term supply teachers from multiple agencies all in one place. Check out Supply Manager.​