Give supply teachers credit where it's due

4th October 2013 at 01:00

I am writing to express my concern over the reputation of hard-working, committed and successful supply teachers in schools across the UK after this line of work hit the headlines last week.

I work with teachers who have opted to take the supply route in search of a better work-life balance. Temporary teachers are often under more pressure to perform and face more of a challenge in the classroom than those in a permanent role.

In September, it was reported that Scotland is experiencing a grave shortage of temporary teachers, with the country's biggest teaching union, the EIS, declaring the situation to have reached a crisis point. The union highlights what an important role supply teachers play and bemoans the lack of incentives for them. I can vouch for how valued supply teachers are by school leaders, who need reliable and knowledgeable cover for teachers who are off sick or in training.

Yet, at the same time, Welsh authorities were criticising schools for overusing supply teachers, with inspectorate Estyn launching a scathing attack on their capabilities. Accusations included a failure to "engage" students and setting "undemanding" work. Equally as critical was the portrayal of supply-teacher agencies, with the watchdog suggesting that teachers using recruitment consultancies are limiting their professional development. I find this insulting, because we (and many other agencies) have training programmes in place to support staff.

It is no mean feat for a teacher to walk into a new school and pick up where an absent member of staff has left off, but the feedback we receive shows that many are more than capable of delivering interesting and challenging lessons at short notice. It is high time supply teachers got the praise they deserve - after all, schools would not be able to function without them.

Michaela Powell, Managing director of Aspire People.

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