Supplys' supplies

13th May 2005 at 01:00
There is work out there for those who can't land permanent jobs. Joanne Shepherd Smith reports

Around 30,000 teachers qualify here every year. Many more arrive from the Commonwealth to take advantage of the two-year working visa, so it is no surprise there are fewer permanent jobs available. But don't despair if you are struggling to find a job. All those years of studying and building up a portfolio won't go to waste. Supply teaching is the answer.

Alistair Crammond, national recruitment strategy manager for Capita Education Resourcing, says his agency places 2,400 supply teachers a day.

"There is a great deal of supply available," he says, "although this depends on the subjects and the geographical location of the newly qualified teachers."

"There is a big difference in the South East and some northern parts of the country, for example, and a greater demand for subjects such as science, maths and music, but there still is a continuous demand. We do, however, see a rise in the autumn term when we have newly qualified teachers looking for work."

According to Kelvin Wilson, recruitment manager at Redbridge, an authority in north-east London, supply work is hugely variable and is in a slight downturn at the moment. "Some schools are working internally with their own cover or supplying long-term cover," he says.

So, where do you start? There are three routes you can take: joining an agency, applying to a local education authority or approaching a school direct. The latter option has its drawbacks, including doing your own security and insurance checks and dealing with an overworked head who may not have enough time to get back to you.

"To do well as a supply teacher you need to be flexible, to not mind taking on special needs classes or do LSA (assistants') work, and you need to be able to move around the borough," says Clinton Daniles, recruitment manager at the agency Teach London.

"I suggest that NQTs join more than one agency but they must be on top of things so they don't double-book. There are some people who prefer being booked in advance, but others who like the spontaneity of the phone call in the morning."

Eileen Ross, head of Herbert Morrison primary school, Lambeth, south London, says she often gets people's CVs through the post, but always uses agencies.

"All teachers need to have a police check and have insurance and I know who and what I'm dealing with at the end of the day," she says. "I tend to use three agencies so that I always have cover and a choice."

But, says Redbridge's Mr Wilson: "The worrying thing is there are a lot of young newly qualified teachers who can't get jobs and could never finish their induction because they aren't getting the requisite three-term period."

"Obviously most would want a more settled arrangement, but that is not always possible, whether they join an agency, freelance or are on the preferred supplier list of which several LEAs subscribe to."

Nicola Price, writing on The TES website forum, says a positive aspect of supply teaching is that you are exposed to a wide variety of schools, covering many abilities, talents and behaviour. "It's done wonders for my behaviour- management techniques. The more schools that know you, the better the chances of a job so sign up to as many agencies as you can," she advises.

"The downside of daily supply is that you don't always know where you are from one day to the next. Staffroom politics can be tiresome and stuffy - you've got to be careful where you sit."

The work is not just a means to an end. It ensures that the education of pupils is continuous in the absence of their regular teachers, who could be off for many reasons, ranging from unforseen illness, to maternity leave, to attending training courses.

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