With the opportunity to avoid third party fees, going it alone as a supply teacher is a tempting prospect. But more often than not, the ease, convenience and, in most cases, reliability of a teacher agency more than justifies the cost. The trick to making a supply teaching agency work for you is choosing the right one. Don’t be tempted to sign up to lots of different agencies, do your research, choose an agency that meets your criteria, and stick with it.
Choosing the right supply agency
A great place to start when deciding on the right supply teaching agency for you is to ask around for recommendations. Word of mouth is a powerful force within the supply industry and finding someone that comes highly recommended is a good place to start. If you're stuck for local advice, why not try the Tes supply teacher forum?
2. Who do they work with?
As a teacher, you’re the best person to judge your skill set and strengths and as a result, choose the schools you’d like to work at. Before you sign up to a supply agency, check that they work with the schools on your list. Supply can be a great route into finding in a permanent role in a school you love, but if your agency doesn’t deal with that school, it makes the job much harder.
During your research, find out how many schools the agency you’re looking into works with and how many placements they fulfil a day, this will give you a good gauge of how effective they are.
3. Well-trained consultants
In the best teacher agencies, a number of the recruitment consultants will be former teachers themselves. This inside knowledge is extremely helpful when choosing placements to suit your skills, and shared experience will help you to develop a relationship with your consultant, which is very important. Australian supply teacher Kayla Bransdon joined an agency after moving to London, “Before even moving to the UK my consultant phoned me regularly to check how I was feeling and ensuring I had everything organised,” she said.
Even if your consultant hasn’t taught before, a good level of experience in the education recruitment sector is vital.
4. Career development
Working with an agency can actually help with your professional development. Kayla recognises the opportunity for career development as being one of the key advantages of working with an agency, “The biggest benefit of working for an agency is that everything is done for you,” she said. “They find you work, handle PR, provide free professional development and are there as emotional support.”
All good agencies will provide you with at least some free training, recognising both the benefits of career development to you, as well as the children you teach.
5. Fair and timely pay
It pays, literally, to do your research into an agency’s payment procedures. Check testimonials on the agency website and search for reviews online - the teaching community are very good at sharing information on bad payers.
Find out how you’re getting paid and when. Each agency differs in its approach, but the most important thing to determine is that the mechanisms in place are as efficient as they can be.
The rate you receive will differ from agency to agency, but for long-term supply a reputable organisation should be paying you in line with your experience.
Whilst safeguarding is a key area for schools to be concerned about, it’s also a really good indicator to whether an agency is reputable or not. All supply staff need at least two references as well as numerous background checks before they start work.
It’s best practice for the agency to complete some of these checks before allowing a candidate to interview at a school. As a rule of thumb the best agencies get the safeguarding stage right.
Need more advice? Here are 10 essential tips for supply teachers.