How to become a supply teacher

If you're looking for more flexibility in your role, then becoming a supply teacher could be the solution. But is it as easy as it sounds? Here are five things you should think about before becoming a substitute teacher.

Tes Editorial

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Becoming a supply teacher gives you the chance to experience different classrooms, decide your own work schedule, and avoid endless hours of after school planning, but knowing where to start can be a bit of a mystery for many teachers preparing to make the leap. There are a number of important things to consider before becoming a supply teacher, and whether you’re an existing educator or new to the profession, supply teaching can be tough and isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.


How to get into supply teaching

1. Check your qualifications

The first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I qualified to do the job?” If you’re already a teacher, the chances are you’ve got the credentials required. For a standard supply job, you’ll need to have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), but there are opportunities for unqualified teachers too.

You can work in secondary schools as a cover supervisor, but you’ll need a degree, or at least be in the process of getting one, and show a commitment to becoming a teacher. To prove the former, you’ll need to have carried out a placement in a secondary school, although it doesn’t matter whether this was paid or unpaid.

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2. Find the right agency

There are lots of supply teacher agencies out there, the trick is finding an organisation, and consultant, that you feel comfortable working with. As well as sourcing jobs and finding suitable postings, you’re agency should be there to offer support too. Kayla Bransdon is a supply teacher working in London, “I love that my agency phone to find out how my day was and how I felt about a school that I attend for the first time.” She said.

“I feel reassured and supported knowing that I am able to be honest with them if I have had a less than enjoyable day.”

3. Understand your tax

Figuring out what tax you should be paying, or even whether you’re employed or self-employed, can be difficult to decipher. If you’re seeking employment through an agency, then legally they should deduct tax and national insurance through PAYE.

“Since 1 April 2017 no temp worker is allowed to work in schools who is being paid by a third party payroll provider,” says Daniel Dunn-Stuart from Smart Teachers. “There are some agencies out there who are giving their staff the chance to be paid by an umbrella company, because I think for them it results in better margins, but they shouldn’t.”

There may be some instances when you are offered work directly through a school, and for this you will need to register as self-employed. At the end of the tax year, it’s up to you to complete a return and divvy up the days worked as a self-employed teacher.

4. Do your research

Before you even think about accepting or applying for a supply teaching job, do your research. As a new supply teacher, the last thing you want to do is jump into the deep end. Heading into a school you don’t know is daunting enough, so for your first few appointments, make sure you have just the right skills for the role. As an experienced teacher, you’ll know the levels of challenging behaviour you feel comfortable with so work closely with your consultant to ensure you are being placed in the right school.

As a new teacher, this is something your consultant should already be considering, but it can’t hurt to bring it up with them.

5. Learn to be flexible

As well as offering you the kind of flexibility you could only dream of as a regular member of staff, working as a supply teacher requires you to be flexible too and you’ll receive more work if you are prepared to be approached at the last minute.

Of course, you can take a holiday whenever you fancy, a particular pleasure during the height of the school holidays when prices go through the roof. But just make sure you make your agency are aware of your availability. Many daily supply teachers decide to take holiday in September when there is less demand for cover teachers.

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