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Cover Supervisors: Friends or Foes

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by JohnJCazorla, Oct 8, 2015.

  1. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    As a Cover Supervisor of 6 years standing in my current secondary school (and more pertinently the Author of a book "How to be a Cover Supervisor". I am interested in the views of other staff on the role.

    What do we do right? Any way this can be improved upon?

    What do we do wrong? Again can this be remedied and how?

    Thank you for your time
  2. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    Some of you are. Good relationships with the students, swift following through of sanctions, keeping them on-task whatever class you've been assigned for that period.

    Some of you aren't. One of our more idiotic and pointless cover supervisors spent a Geography lesson showing the kids magic tricks and allowing them to break things. Same one was spotted spending a Music lesson making his own backing tracks on Garageband while all Hell broke out around him.

    Much like every role, there's some heroes and some villains. Our magic-tricking, garage-banding idiot holds QTS but is employed as a Cover Supervisor. I dread to think how he'd be if he were responsible for planning, marking and progress.
  3. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    I've worked with some fantastic cover supervisors.

    I've also worked with some who should never be let in the door of a school.

    But - I've worked with some QTS holders who should never be allowed in a classroom, either.

    @varcolac - I'm amazed this character is still employed...
  4. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    Like anyone else there are some good, some bad. It has nothing to do with job title, it is simply what you get in any walk of life.
  5. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    Thanks Varcolac and others for pointing out the good and bad.
    The 'bad' raises a question that has puzzled me over the last 6 years of quality control. All teachers are subject to observations/work scrutiny/cpd...etc. I've been pretty much left alone for the last 6 years (including 3 OFSTEDs) and no real feedback from senior management.

    I assume I'm ok as I haven't been sacked yet but given that I'm equally in charge of a class I can't see how I'm still given the easy ride?

    Jack Cazorla
    Author of "How to be a Cover Supervisor"
    schriscole likes this.
  6. varcolac

    varcolac Occasional commenter

    There's a few reasons you're left alone in my opinion, if you'll indulge me my tuppence worth:
    • There's no "Cover Supervisors' Standards" for you to be judged against.
    • As you're called in to cover staff in an emergency, it's difficult to arrange observations in advance, and even if they could what would they be judging you against.
    • It's pretty much necessary to have a few Cover Supervisors around in order to keep the school running, especially when (as was the case in my department this week) there's a godawful bug going round. You're better value for money than agency cover by a long shot.
    • Going back to point 2 - you're emergency supervision, not long-term progress. The school doesn't observe short-term cover because the understanding is that the regular teacher will be back to pick up the pieces later on.
    As you're necessary, cheap, and nobody's really observing you, so long as the kids don't cause a riot and they're all registered as present, it's difficult to prove if you're not living up to your role.
    Yoda- likes this.
  7. mark6243

    mark6243 Occasional commenter

    If cover supervisors feel valued by the teaching staff and are supported by them, rather than berated behind their backs, I've found they can be invaluable. Before my GTP I was a TA and then cover supervisor, and some staff treat you like something they're just scraped off their shoe. I can recall many lessons where I said nothing as the teacher - usually some NQT who'd never left the classroom - told kids ******** like gravity is magnetic or some other embarrassing falsehood.

    I find that the support staff - technicians, dinner ladies, cleaners, TA's etc - are far more down to earth and human than many stuck-up teachers who think they're important just because they studied Shakespeare for a few years (fantastically transferable knowledge and great use to the economy that, btw).
    MAP1976 likes this.
  8. Findlotte

    Findlotte Established commenter

    I've just got the role as a Cover Supervisor as my first educated related job. I've learned a few things already from here.
  9. purplecarrot

    purplecarrot Senior commenter

    Here's my two pennies.
    There are good and bad in any line of work.
    Cover supervisors are fine if they're doing short term absence e.g. for when staff call in sick for a few days. Great cover supervisors can deliver pre-prepared materials and if the cover work is abysmal, they can fudge it so that students still learn. I like having cover supervisors in house because they know the school, students, know the behaviour protocols and 99% of the time if our cover supervisors cover my lesson, I know that they'll do a bloody good job. The same can't be said for when we've had external people in.

    Cover supervisors are not ok for more than a week because often they can't plan/mark for progress (obviously - because they're not qualified teachers), nor should they be expected to. They're not paid as teachers so shouldn't have to do all of the other elements of the job.
    In my experience, when schools have long term cover and employ cover supervisors, it creates a rush to the bottom on daily supply rates (especially when you see people with QTS working not in a teaching role). Also, in my experience, the rest of the department have to pick up the slack in a way they wouldn't if the school stopped being tight and just employed a supply teacher. e.g. co-planning with the cover-supervisor, meeting regularly to check all is well, marking for all the covered classes either doesn't get done (bad for student progress and for the staff member when they get back) or they do a 'best guess' job at levels/grading - not accurate for monitoring progress or the assessments get 'shared out' among the team who have to mark for the cover supervisor as well as their own classes.

    Wow - teachers are so stuck up because they actually want to make sure their profession is acknowledged as a professions in a time when you can now be employed as a teacher with 5 GCSEs. Teaching is a lot more than just delivering lessons. Non-teaching posts (and supply - from what I've heard from friends) comes with the responsibility of ensuring every pupil makes progress over time, tracking targeted groups, parents' evenings, meetings, progress and standards, Ofsted, SEN/EAL differentiation etc. It's not the same as delivering a set of resources that have been planned and designed to be delivered by somebody who isn't a specialist - I know many teachers will shuffle/adjust their planning if they end up being absent to ensure that key lessons that require more specialist knowledge aren't given as cover lessons.

    Sorry - but I have the utmost respect for support staff for doing their jobs and know that some of my most vulnerable students wouldn't make as much progress if it wasn't for the outstanding support staff I work with, but will defend the status of teaching as a distinct profession that requires professional training until the end - regardless if any Tom, Dick and Harry thinks they can do it because they once went to school. I guess Doctors who think they have more specialist professional knowledge than healthcare assistants are also stuck up too?
  10. DYNAMO67

    DYNAMO67 Lead commenter

    What an offensive, condescending and baseless statement. Purplecarrot, spot on.
    hhhh and lizziescat like this.
  11. seharrold

    seharrold New commenter

    As an English Teahcer who was employed as a Cover Supervisor prior to completing my training I think most Cover Supervisors do a fantastic job. You cannot be a good and effective Cover Supervisor without having a good handle on behaviour, (and therefore students who do what you tell them) and for the most part the Cover Supervisors I have worked with have that.You do also get the odd one or two who feel that their job is just to take the register and keep the kids in the classroom, and nothing is more frustrating than returning from a bout of sickness to a classroom where your displays have been ripped from the walls and no work has been completed.

    As a Cover Supervisor I was subject to quality assurance and I think this is a valid part of the role. It is hard to organise but it also ensures that you feel the job you are doing is important, and that they care if it is done well. When I was observed (albeit only for 25 minutes) I took pride in what I did and wanted to know how to improve.

    I feel that many schools undervalue the role of the Cover Supervisor, and maybe if we valued them a little more we would see less of the odd one or two who couldn't care less.
    JohnJCazorla, Findlotte and varcolac like this.
  12. karaka

    karaka New commenter

    Who says cover supervisors are not qualified teachers? I am a teacher and I did cover work on supply after returning from overseas and I work with a fantastic cover supervisor who used to be head of dept.

    I am not stuck up either, nor are the teachers I work with. We haven't got much to be 'stuck up' about really.
  13. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    My experience of cover supervisors has mostly been very good. The best ones knew how to keep control and made sure that they followed instructions carefully. As far as I was concerned, I knew when a cover supervisor had done a good job by the quality of work done during my absence. They also provided feedback on behaviour and how the class got on. I think that the teacher setting cover has a responsibility to make sure that it is clear and that a non-specialist can handle it. Remembering to say thank you to someone who has done a good job is an excellent way of showing they are valued.
  14. lornaliterature

    lornaliterature New commenter

    Yes, some Cover Supervisors I know have PhDs and are doing the job alongside hourly-paid HE teaching. So, the idea that a Cover Supervisor cannot/does not have specialist knowledge of a subject is not always correct. As post-docs, they are better qualified in terms of subject knowledge (if not secondary teacher training) than many teachers who often have a 2.2 BA degree
  15. Yoda-

    Yoda- Lead commenter

    A historical perspective.

    Cover supervisors were one of the first cracks in the up to then generally agreed aim of a 100% graduate work force with QTS.

    While I have no doubt that there are first rate cover supervisors. The truth of the matter is that their introduction was as a cost saving measure. Many teachers at the time saw this introduction as a betrayal when the unions did not oppose it strongly enough.

    What followed? Teaching assistants forced to cover. HLTAs. Unqualified teachers . LEA supply teaching pools disapear...The Status of Teaching undermined. So objectively the role of cover supervisor is a Foe to the Teaching profession.

    This does not mean that I feel any personnel animosity to cover supervisors. They do a hard job with poor pay and usually minimal training.

    I still think that if you're in charge of a classroom that you should have a degree and be trained to QTS. This was the profession I was promised when I joined.

    No doubt there will be people saying you don't need a degree, PGCE or anything else they don't have, to be a good teacher or cover a class. Has this helped the status of Teaching? Has this helped recruitment or retention?
  16. MAP1976

    MAP1976 New commenter

    I have been working as a cover supervisor for the past two years. I initially took on the role to gain experience, and to determine whether I really wanted a career as a teacher. Well, it turns out that despite all the moaning and groaning in the staff room, I still want a job as a teacher - working as a cover supervisor is just to damn hard!!

    I will continue this later, as I am in the middle of covering a lesson...
  17. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    But at least it gives you time to post on TES during a lesson - not something I could do as a teacher.
    hhhh likes this.
  18. MAP1976

    MAP1976 New commenter

    In all seriousness, working as a cover supervisor is very hard, the challenges I face everyday are mentally and physically draining. Some aspects of the job are harder than that of a teacher, in the sense that we don't know which classes we are going to be faced with from one day to the next. Moving around the school from classroom to classroom delivering lessons covering five different subjects, and being expected to teach that subject when we have very little knowledge of it.

    In my school, when we are not required to cover, we have to 'support' teachers, either with hard to handle classes were the behaviour is poor, or assist with practical work. We also have to attend inset days and cover dinner time and detention duties - so really, all the things a teacher has to do, apart from the marking, lesson planning, progress reports, etc. I don't really have a problem with this, but sometimes it does seem that cover supervisors are not valued in a school as much as teachers. When I cover a disruptive class, I am just left to it, and no support is given.

    I understand how hard teaching is, and I can appreciate that teachers have a lot to deal with; most of the teachers at my school feel the same about cover supervisors. When I enter a classroom in the morning I do everything in my power to engage the kids with their work, give them clear instructions, and make sure they complete what is being asked of them by the absent teacher. If they attempt to complete all the work without having to ask me any questions, behave, and learn something, then my job is done. I try to keep up this professional standard until the last period, but that's not always possible after a full day of covers.

    I have a degree, but I don't necessarily think you need one to be a cover supervisor, you just need to be good with kids and have a sense of humour (especially when you look at your pay packet every month.)
  19. Piranha

    Piranha Star commenter

    Yes, I agree that the role can be tough during the day, and it is not one that I would like to do. I had a lot of respect for the cover teachers in my school, and I made a point of dealing with any bad behaviour they reported if covering for me. And thanking them in person from time to time. Teachers do have the advantage of dealing with familiar classes, but do not underestimate the cumulative effect of all the work outside the classroom and the continual changes they have to deal with.

    By the way, I don't quite understand why not having questions to deal with is one of the signs that your job is well done. Provided that they are sensible questions, surely answering them and so helping the kids complete their work is a good thing. As a teacher, one of the things I enjoyd most was being able to hep children who asked me questions.
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  20. MAP1976

    MAP1976 New commenter

    My point being is that I am not a teacher, my job is to supervise and make sure the kids stay on task. If I was paid an instructors/unqualified teachers wage, then I would gladly help them in answering any questions.

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