4th April 2003 at 01:00
Effective Supply Teaching: behaviour management, classroom discipline and colleague support. By Bill Rogers. Paul Chapman Publishing. pound;15.99

Supply Teachers' Survival Guide. By Glen Segell. Trentham Books. pound;12.99

Like many schools, we recently introduced staff name badges. Foolishly, we had some made that said "supply teacher". We might as well have issued pin-on signs saying "victim".

Students' perception of supply teachers can be a major hurdle to success, as Bill Rogers acknowledges. Certainly it can seem one of education's most thankless jobs. The appeal of both these books is the way they convincingly present the role as more than babysitting or (depending on the school) zoo-keeping.

Characteristically, Bill Rogers's guide is rooted in practical techniques for behaviour management. It is at its weakest at the start, with a heavily anecdotal style and chapters jarringly (and unnecessarily) prefaced by quotations by Shakespeare ("O, how full of briars is this working-day world"). But then the book settles into familiar rhythms.

Rogers is the master of reassurance, and convincingly reminds us how important is the language of the classroom. He demonstrates how to use words that reinforce our authority assertively and without confrontation.

There's an occasional whiff of what my students would call cheesiness, a hint of it seeming easier on paper than in the classroom: "Maybe Ms Snooks doesn't mind you playing your Walkman. What's the school rule, Basil?I I'll come and check your work later - see how you're going."

There are some simple techniques, such as pausing in your speech to direct a student who is late to his or her seat. Never ignore lateness. The underlying message must be: "I'm in control; this is my territory." It is such strategies, a close attention to the detailed nuances of the classroom, that make Rogers such good value, even if we can't imagine teaching someone called Basil.

His book is also essential reading for senior staff in schools, where much could be done to make the supply teacher's role harmonise with a whole-school approach to homework, behaviour management and school routines.

Bill Rogers's book should be called Supply Teachers' Survival Guide, but Glen Segell got there first. His is a very different book, which appears to be aimed at people starting from a much lower level of knowledge of the UK education system. As a result there are accounts of government regulations, the terminology of education, advice on supply teaching in Scotland, and so on.

Overall it's an odd mix, with a section on registration with the General Teaching Council then a hearty account of "Dos and don'ts in the staffroom".

For anyone coming to the UK in search of supply work, or kick-starting a teaching career after a long gap, this book may help in rapidly updating basic knowledge. Overall, I found it excessively detailed in its account of literacy and numeracy strategies, religious education statutes and other curriculum issues. These are not the kinds of issues supply teachers will be taken up with, so much as where are the whiteboard pens and is there a map of the school?

Most schools rely on a core of willing supply teachers. These books remind us of the need to invest in their skills and knowledge.

Geoff Barton is headteacher at King Edward VI school, Suffolk

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today