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Anyone any tips on how to maintain lots of supply work?

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by AnonL, Nov 27, 2015.

  1. AnonL

    AnonL New commenter

    I am a supply teacher. I only started last Feb 2015 as I was teaching abroad for 3 and a half years. I had lots of work last school year, yet this school year I have only had 6 days in total.
    I have been in schools and every other sub I have met have stated that they are getting at least three days a week, so there is plenty of work.

    The most disheartening thing happened today when I was subbing in a school on my second day there this year. Last year from feb I had about two days a week at this same school up until mid may. The other sub who had never worked in the school before) who was hired along with myself last friday to do 2 days was not only asked to do an extra day yesterday (which I was overlooked for), but the teacher in charge of cover has booked her in today for loads more days and has not booked me for anymore.

    I taught in the classroom next to this teacher (separated by a window) and to be honest, she did not seem to be doing anything that I did not. Both of our classes were well managed and organized, yet she seems to have become the favorite even though I was at this school last year and she was not.

    As well as this all other subs I have met in schools as stated claim to be getting at least 3 days a week. Is there any special technique that gets someone lots of work? I always work hard and teach my classes well, follow policy and am reliable, plus have quite good classroom management. My weakness however is that I tend to keep to myself a bit in staff-rooms and do not sit and chat much with other permanent teachers. May this be seen as a detriment? Please from anyone who gets lots of work doing supply, what is it that schools are looking for? What tips can you give for getting lots of work? How do you make schools like you enough to keep asking you back? Please be honest and no need to sugar coat.

    I have lots of experience

    Please tell me how and what gets some people more work than others. To be honest I cannot do another term with such little work and am going to have to quit supply teaching if next term is as quiet as I cannot afford to live with such little work. Needless to add, plenty of people are getting plenty of work. Whats the secret???
  2. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    You can start by not referring to other supply teachers as "subs" for one thing.
    snowyhead and PizzoCalabro like this.
  3. PizzoCalabro

    PizzoCalabro Established commenter

    Is she with the same agency? She may be cheaper.
    Last year with one agency (which was always nagging me to go Umbrella instead of PAYE, and also trying to get away with cover supervisor rates - neither of which I accepted) I used to go reasonably often to one school, but only for odd days, and I could see from the signing in book that the agency had lots of people there. And the school gave me lots of positive feedback and kid were always pleased to see me. One day I mentioned to the cover manager, and she looked surprised and said they were always asking for me and told I was busy.. I reckon the others were paid UC/CS. That same agency got a new manager at Easter and then only got me one day's work in the summer and a few phantom 'bookings'. The in Sept they said I needed to provide a ref as had not worked for them for 3 months! As I had other agencies and my direct work, just ignored them. Today coincidentally got an email form them asking me to 're-register' as some schools were asking for me. Yeah, tell that to the Marines - not gonna bother with that agency!
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    If you read some of the other threads you will realise you are not alone: although it may seem like others are getting plenty of work, there are people who are not getting much.

    Schools and agencies can be very fickle and sometimes there is not a pattern. Some schools do try to get subject specialists in and that may affect who gets asked back.

    If you are working to a high standard then that is all you can do.

    When you are at a school, it may be helpful to try to chat to some of the permanent staff and try to build a rapport. Do you leave a feedback sheet for the teacher? If you leave a pleasant note for the teacher thanking them for their lesson plan and giving them some positive feedback about their students when appropriate, they will sometimes ask the person who arranges cover to ask you back.

    Are you willing to do primary and secondary? If so, that may open up more opportunities for you.

    Supply teaching is a very tough profession to be in. The work is irregular and in some schools the working conditions are dire. I can only manage because my husband has a small business and even that is hard.

    Each year it is harder and harder and some of the schools are truly awful in terms of behaviour.

    Lasrly , remember that where you are in the country will affect how much work you may ultimately get.
  5. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    This might be a little bit harsh, Peakster. The OP mentioned they were working abroad. This might have bene in America where 'substitute teacher', 'subbie' or 'sub' are common expressions for the equivalent of supply teachers. It don't think it's meant to be derogatory.
    scattykatty and pepper5 like this.
  6. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    After reading your post again, I wanted to write that the other teachers who are getting more work may be going to schools that they have to travel further to or in schools where the behaviour is difficult to manage. I could work every day twice over if I travelled further than 30 minutes and was willing to go into the very tough and mismanaged schools.

    It wouldn't hurt to appear to be more friendly. I go to one school and get a lot of repeat bookings and have made it a small goal to learn everyone's name. I don't do that at every school, but I do try to appear friendly; supply teachers who smile make a positive impression.

    At the end of the day, always thank the person arranging cover for their help and for the booking even if the day hasn't gone as well as you'd like.

    Trust work picks up for you soon. It does appear that it is picking up in my area and my agency told me once that between now and April is their busiest time.
  7. AnonL

    AnonL New commenter

    Thank you for these points. Some of these are great.

    The teachers whom I am referring to who get lots of work actually do so in the same school so do not have to travel.

    I am willing to do primary and secondary as well. Also, my subject may be a factor in some cases, as I am trained in a subject that is predominantly a post-16 subject and this may impact upon being asked back, as may cost in some cases as many of the other. Subs I have met are Maths, English, Music, Geography, RE, P.E. Classic school subjects basically.

    Pepper, your post regarding freindliness is very helpful. I am reasonably freindly and would say hello and smile if I passed someone in the corridor.

    However, I do not know hardly any names of any of the staff in the schools I work at, I sit by myself in the staff room or classroom at breaks and seldom strike up conversations and do my job in quite an individualised fashion.

    Also the tip for writing a thank you note to the teacher is also a great idea. I believe the girl who got asked back last Friday was recommended by a maths teacher in the school she had never met to cover for him again. Likewise, although I would say hello to the person who organises cover, I never really talk to them and just leave without thanking them usually unless I happen to see them on way out in which case I just casually thank them.

    I think no matter how good at your job you are, these posts and the experiences of others show that schools generally like those subs who interact very well with the full time staff and display passion to them in their speech, body language, dress, confidence etc.

    I think now this is where I am lacking and need work on. I will attempt to develop this in future in working in schools.

    Thank you

    Opinions welcome.
  8. AnonL

    AnonL New commenter

    Indeed. I had never thought of this before, but if a staff member goes on a course they may in fact even recommend the sub to cover whom they want to take their classes. They are seldom likely to recommend a sub they do not know. Friendships with full time staff are vitally important therefore.
  9. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    We can all work on our interaction with others no matter how long we have been working or living on planet earth. The hardest part of working in some schools is where the staff treat you as though you are invisible and it is hard to maintain a friendly manner and speak to people. In those schools, I am no, therefore, going to make a more determined effort to speak to people.

    Another thing is that many teachers are under so much pressure that a kind word in the appropriate manner or time will go a long way.

    Working as a supply teacher is one of the toughest jobs in a school a principal once told me and I can believe it. On Friday, I interacted with around 100 pupils over 4 lessons. To maintain composure and deal with every situation in connection with needs and behaviour of those students is a mammoth task. Add to the task of dealing with the adults and it starts to get even more difficult.

    If you get a booking on Monday, try learning just one or two names of people in the schools you work at to start with then build up on that. Ask people how there day has been. Once you get to know people a bit better, you can ask about their hobbies, kids, pets etc.. It is the oil that makes the day a bit more interesting.

    Try to hone up your skills/knowledge in other subjects that schools need if you are able to since as you say your subject is predominately in FE colleges. I do a lot of general cover, so in my free time I study science and maths just so I am a bit stronger in those areas if I have to cover it. In time, you may want to take some courses in another subject to add to the ones you can teach. Have you ever considered working within industry as a trainer? That might be a teaching role you could do.

    Take care and let us know how you get on. It is all experience no matter what the day brings. I had a tough week this week, but even within all that I have learned something.
  10. missrturner

    missrturner Occasional commenter

    Would you also consider becoming an examiner/moderator for your subject's exam board? I did this for the subject of History over the summer term/holidays and it was a great source of extra money. It would also add to your CV and is a little something extra on your profile when schools are seeking supply staff.

    I would also suggest looking into other agencies, would you consider registering to more than one?
  11. AnonL

    AnonL New commenter

    Great responses. Thank you so much. Yes, I am already an examiner in my subject during summer holidays. However, I am not certain I have updated this on my profile for schools. May be worth doing
    Again, thank you all for these very useful posts.
    missrturner likes this.

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