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New to supply? Learn from our experience

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by nearmiss, Jan 10, 2016.

  1. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    Hi fellow supply teachers.

    I keep seeing posts on "Dilemmas" and other groups from dozens of teachers who are quitting their jobs and contemplating supply.
    Over the years we have consolidated some excellent tips and solid advice which has helped people avoid classic newbie blunders, false expectations and keep away from the worst practices of rip-off agencies. We have heard how people have made the situation work for them. We have also seen how colleagues have agreed to disadvantageous contracts and suffered hardship.
    Can I suggest that we cut and paste our best bits on here from the archive. Practical hints and tips to let people know what to expect, how to make the situation work for them, how to negotiate with agencies and schools, how not to get exploited.
    We see the same topics again and again, so let's create a one stop shop of cautionary tales, serious advice, no names, no recommendations/condemnation, no free advertising.

    • pay rates
    • contracts
    • AWR
    • Umbrella companies
    • Temp to perm. rules
    • guaranteed work, guaranteed pay
    • primary/secondary
    • your duties
    • the school's obligations
    • the agency's obligations
    • union policies
    • classroom management
    If you have previously posted info. under any of these and got good feedback, copy it below.

    We can request that the post is locked and pinned after a couple of weeks and is left at the top as a read-only.
    pepper5, helendarby, Madamejb and 5 others like this.
  2. GLsghost

    GLsghost Star commenter

    This is an excellent intitiative and will be invaluable. Thank you for proposing it.

    I am tagging @TheoGriff to ensure she sees it. Perhaps she could pin it to Workplace Dilemmas and her own Jobseekers / career forums, if she thinks it appropriate?
  3. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    I'll pin it to here.

    Sensible, well-balanced contributions will be welcomed.

    Rants less so . . . ;)

    And please remember that under the T&C, you may not post about any specific Agency, School, etc.

    Best wishes

    nearmiss and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  4. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    School's Obligations - and this is not an exhaustive list!

    1. To let you know who you are covering and whether it is subject specific or general (if Secondary)

    2. If it is daily, to have work left that is planned - either by the absent teacher if a planned absence or by the HoD/HoF if sickness. If it is long term the understanding is that the supply teacher plans, but of course support must be offered.

    3. To make sure you know where everything is - classroom, exercise books, worksheets, text books.

    4. To inform you of the behaviour policy and a map of the school, along with timetable and lesson times.

    5. To show you who HoD/HoF/SLT are if you have any problems.

    6. To show you the Staff room or tea and coffee making facilities, and where you can buy or eat lunch - its important that supply teachers get a break.

    7. To show you who HR/Head's PA are that sign your timesheet to make sure you get paid properly.

    8. To thank you at the end of the day. You are helping us, after all!!
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Great idea. If I can trawl back to when I was doing supply and first started posting I'll see if I can add some general advice.;)
  6. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    What an excellent idea. Many of the posts you've written will be welcomed. The one you wrote a few weeks ago about how to contact schools directly was particularly interesting and would be of use to many starting out on supply.

    I might write one on classroom management or cut and paste one I have written already.
    nearmiss likes this.
  7. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    What an excellent idea and would be a valuable resource for all (not just new) supply teachers.

    My contributions under Teacher's duties would be

    1) If applicable to leave some written feedback with the HOD what progress the class made in the lesson you were covering ie: how far through the set work the class on average got, anything the class as a whole did not understand, which students worked particularly well etc, This will help the usual teacher with future planning. Its also vitally important to include what was not covered. this will happen from time to time for a number of reasons outside the supply teacher's control but the usual teacher needs to know so it can be included in future lessons.

    2) Sometimes its possible to get the class to do some peer marking or self marking (teacher writes answers on the board). This has two bonuses, it shows to the students the cover work was valuable and not just a "filler" and also helps the regular teacher with their workload.

    3) If on a long term placement (say a term or more) you might be asked to attend a Parents' Evening . This is a reasonable request since you are filling the role of a regular classroom teacher. However let your agency know about the extra hours (often a decent school will anyway) and you might get some extra pay.

    I believe that these suggestions help create the impression that Supply Teachers are as equally professional about their duties as a contracted teacher and can only help improve the image.

    I expect there will be many more additions to my list.
  8. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    @les25paul is spot on. Parents' Evening will be expected if on long term - and it's worth checking if you're required for other events such as Open Evening and Options Evening.
    agathamorse likes this.
  9. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Most people on long term positions (not all I know) are looking for a permanent position so doing patents evening and the like is a good way to show commitment.

    I did a couple when I was on long term supply.
    Orchid2457, agathamorse and CWadd like this.
  10. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Classroom Management

    Schools will vary considerably in how supportive they are in helping supply teachers with managing classes. I used to go to one school where it was the school's policy to send a member of staff along to every supply lesson to check whether or not the teacher had everything they needed and all the classes were settled and working. Most schools will have some type of on call system a teacher can call or send a student to get assistance. When you arrive at a school ask about what the procedure is to get assistance if you can't get a class settled, or have other issues you can't resolve yourself. Also read through the behaviour policy in the handbook if they have one.

    In order to be able to thrive on supply, you will need to have thought through almost everything in advance. If you can get a class on your side from the beginning, you will have a head start. The following are some ideas that have helped me.

    Be on time

    If at all possible get to the rooms you will be in before the students. Write your name on the board, the date, and the tasks that the class will be working on, or setup the computer if you have access and log on details. Write your brief rules on the board. I use

    Follow instructions fast
    Stay on task
    Work without disturbing others

    These ideas I read in a book by Paul Dix titled Taking Care of Behaviour which I highly recommend.

    When the students start to arrive, stand at the door and greet each one just like you've won the lotto- it will make you feel good and set a good model for the students.

    Once everyone is settled, coats off, planners out, bags under the desks, introduce yourself very briefly. Tell the class your name and perhaps one or two things about yourself but keep it brief. Explain to the class the three rules and why they are important to ensure everyone learns and the tasks set by their teacher gets completed. The class will appreciate that you have a professional attitude and you are attempting to keep the learning on track. Be realistic though...you might not cover the entire !lesson plan but attempt between 90 and 100% Some classes will try to get out of working when they have a supply teacher, so don't give up but encourage them to stay on task.

    When you do have students who you do have to speak to, give them a couple of warnings and a chance to change their behaviour. I use memorised scripts so I know what to say. The scripts are in the abovementioned book by Paul Dix.

    Practice remaining calm. On supply, you have to have high tolerance levels and no matter what students may do or say, don't let them see you are unsettled. If you can't settle a group or have individuals who are choosing to misbehave, send for help. Most of the time, you will find these students are sent out time and again by every teacher they have.

    Take stickers with you and give them out either on planners or work to those students who have worked hard and behaved well. Leave a list for the teacher of the names of anyone you noticed worked particularly well.

    Ensure you keep track of the time and have the class ready to go on time. If you have a couple of minutes waiting for the bell, have some one minute time fillers to use while students are waiting to go, or review some of the concepts you have covered.

    When you dismiss the class, ensure everyone is quiet and allow students to go in groups so you don't have a stampede going out of the door. If the class have worked well, thank them as they leave.

    Keep reading books on classroom management including working with students with different learning needs.
  11. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    Please note that you are not under any contractual obligation, as an agency supply teacher, to attend parents' evenings unless the school has let the agency know that this is going to be an expectation.
    If you have opted to do supply because you want to work fixed hours so you can spend time with your own children, or because you are semi-retired and just need a cash top up, make this clear. Do not accept long term placements in that case. If you accept a long term placement, it will be expected that you take on the full role, planning, marking, reporting and attending meetings, break time duties, detentions, plus running extension activities. Therefore you must be paid accordingly.
    (more about this under the heading AWR and pay rates)
    The agency is your intermediary so you can only negotiate pay and conditions with them; never with the school as this is a breach of contract and will be cause for instant dismissal.
  12. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    I have a long list of what to do and what not to do:

    Firstly let's deal with rates of pay and contracts.

    You will find that a lot of schools only use agencies for supply teachers particularly if you are in Wales, the West Midlands and some parts of London. If you have just retired from a post but are waiting for your pension to mature, your old school will probably take you back for the odd day without the mediation of an agency. This is a much better option so take it.

    I cannot stress enough, an agency supply contract is nothing like the contract that exists between you and your LEA or school, so don't sign anything or agree to anything without reading it first.
    Before doing any business with any agency take the time to find out who they are and arrange to see them face to face at their office. If they do not have an office, ask yourself why. Do not send any personal data to them until you have screened them. There are some fraudsters out there who are just data thieves posing as agencies.

    There are a couple of types of contract:
    The first is the standard contract.
    As long as your teaching qualification is recognised in the UK and you have DBS clearance, you will be eligible. The interview process is far less exhaustive than a school interview. They will sign you up as long as you can produce proof of identity, proof of QTS and you will probably need to undergo DBS again unless you have already subscribed to the online renewal service. See the DBS website for how this works.
    Any agency who charges you for this service is not complying with Conduct of Employment Agency legislation, so don't do any further business with them. They can only charge the standard DBS rate. If they ask for admin. fees, get out. This is not legal and you must report them. Do not pay any fees before they have placed you in work. Ask for your DBS payment to be deducted from your first week's pay, that way they will have to place you. If they can't agree to this, it means they do not have many clients and will probably not be able to offer you much work.
    You can enrol with as many agencies as you like now that your DBS is portable.
    A standard supply contract assumes that on a day to day, ad hoc placement you will not need to provide any teaching materials or resources. Do not subscribe to any websites that sell this stuff. The school is supposed to provide the lesson plans and resources. It is the school's responsibility to download and supply lessons, not yours. You might not be able to use your own memory sticks in schools anyway if there is no access to their network and some schools, for safeguarding reasons, might frown on you bringing in your own external memory devices.

    The school's own public liability insurance will cover you as a temporary employee, so don't be talked into buying any more insurances. You don't need them. Report any agency that says you do. Again this is a breach of conduct of employment agency regulations.

    The standard contract still assumes STPCD hours of work, ie. 6.4 hours. It is best not to accept half day placements unless the exact hours are specified as mornings are often longer than afternoons so you work an hour for no pay. You are entitled to take at least one break of at least half an hour. This should be spelled out in your contract. Only accept contracts which specify this.

    You are not paid for the time you take commuting and you can not claim travel expenses in terms of a cash refund for tickets or petrol. (more of this under the title Umbrella Payroll Services)

    Pay rates are not specified but many agencies will write a rate into your contract without consulting you. You must ask at your interview what the daily rate is. The rates are not based on your qualifications or experience. Most people who are long serving supplies have negotiated a much better rate.
    They will offer you about £100 - £120 per day. This rate is negotiable so have a figure in mind before you accept any offers. If the placement is long term, you must ask for at least another £20 above the daily rate. Hold your nerve when asking for more.
    (more about this under the heading Agency Workers' Regulations AWR)

    There are 194 teaching days in a school year. Even if you were placed every single day, at £100 per day, you would be on £19,400 per annum before tax. Assume you will only be working around 50% of the available time.

    Agencies are under no obligation to place you at all. They rely on schools needing temporary staff. They are not your employer, they are just an employment intermediary. They ring round schools and try to find business. It might not be there.
    Once GCSEs start in May, secondary placements fall off to nothing and don't pick up again until after Christmas half term. You need to factor this in. Holiday pay is deducted from your wages at a very tiny percentage and accumulates so that you will get about 50 quid bonus or you might get a small increment after the qualifying period stated on your contract or you can just request that it is not deducted. You will not receive any salary in the school holidays either way. You are usually paid one week in hand.
    You must keep an independent record of your placements and check your pay slip meticulously. If you fill in a timesheet, always check that the client school has endorsed it and sent their copy too. All work is pro rata of hours worked even on a long term placement. If you are ill or snowed off or the school is otherwise closed, you will not be paid. If you opt to attend a PD day, you must negotiate with your agency otherwise you will not be paid.

    Some agencies will offer you what is called a Guaranteed Work or Guaranteed Pay contract.
    This does not necessarily do exactly what it says on the tin.
    I will explain why in a separate post.

    Above all, read the NUT post at the top of this forum and always READ YOUR CONTRACT.
  13. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    Guaranteed Work/Guaranteed Pay contracts.

    Sounds too good to be true?

    That's because it is.

    Agencies will often not tell you that you have agreed to such a contract.
    The day rates for these contracts are often lower than your agreed rate based on the rationale that you will get more work. In the short term this could be correct but long term you lose out.
    There are several clauses attached to such a contract and it might not be suitable to your work pattern or personal timetable.
    In urban areas where there are dozens of schools within a ten mile radius or so, this is OK as you will not be spending hours commuting.
    If you are an NQT or first year teacher it is also OK as the rate of pay will probably be roughly equivalent to your full time entitlement. Otherwise it is not a good deal.
    For a start, you do not have the option to turn down a placement even if it is at a school that you find challenging or if the commute is inconvenient. You are breaching your agreement if if you do not accept the placements.

    The guaranteed work clause does not oblige the agency to find you work every day if there is no work available, so don't count on 100% occupation. It is skewed in the agency's favour so the contract lapses after a specified period with no liability on their part if they can't place you but if you have found work for the unplaced days via another agency, you are in breach and they can drop you.

    I have never heard of an agency taking a teacher to litigation for breach of contract, so it won't get messy. They'll just keep you on file but not use you.

    You cannot negotiate an increase in pay if the placements pan out long term and you are then expected to take on the full duties of the absent teacher as the title of the contract suggests.
    You are also not entitled to equivalent full time pay at 12 weeks as you would have been under a standard contract.

    Again, I stress READ YOUR CONTRACT.

    If you see the words Regulation 10 or Swedish Derogation in there, query this, as this means you will forfeit your rights to any pay rises. If the agency will not negotiate, start looking for work elsewhere. Report them as they cannot force you to sign a Swedish Derogation.

    There are agency rating websites (not on here) where you can name and shame.
  14. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    Some further thoughts on Guaranteed Work or Guaranteed Pay contract.

    There's some suspicion (and its nothing more then that) that agencies will use the teachers they have on .Guaranteed Work or Guaranteed Pay contract to cover work in the more challenging schools in the first instance. It makes sense for them since a teacher not bound by one of these contracts is free to turn down such offers of work and accept a day offered by another agency instead. The agency doesn't want this to happen and will offer the "plum" jobs to such teachers.

    Those on a Guaranteed contract do not have the option to turn down these jobs.

    With a .Guaranteed Work or Guaranteed Pay contract read the contract very carefully before deciding if its right for you.
    chirpyandcheerful likes this.
  15. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    Agency Workers' Regulations (AWR)

    In its simplest form, this legislation, which is based in European Law, means that if your agency pay rate is less than the rate you would be paid as a full time employee, you can, after 12 weeks in the same placement be paid to scale.

    If you accept a long term placement, you have rights but not immediately.

    For example, if your daily rate through the agency is £120, after 12 weeks AWR rate for a teacher on Pay Spine 6 should be just over £164 per day. It would be expected that a teacher working a long term placement will not be functioning as a cover supervisor and will be planning lessons, preparing resources and doing the equivalent of the full time teacher's job.
    At 12 weeks most reputable agencies will pay you your STPCD rates if you are working in the same placement and if there has been no substantive change to the nature of the work. There cannot have been a change as you were hired as a teacher and even if you were initially hired to teach in one subject area but are given work in other subject areas at the same school during performance of the contract, this is not a substantive change as it is still teaching.
    If you are working in more than one client school but they are all in the same LEA or academy chain, this entitlement still applies.
    If there is a break of more than 6 weeks in service, the clock goes back to zero. However, the school summer holiday does not affect this as it is not a break in service as there was no opportunity to work. So if you are placed at a school all year and they take you back again the following September, you still get paid the full amount. If the same school requested you back through the agency after a break in service of less than 6 weeks, you would still be entitled to claim your AWR rates from the agency.
    There are lots of ways round this and less reputable agencies have found loopholes in the law to get avoid paying enhanced rates.

    Some free schools and academy chains do not pay to STPCD rates and so the agency will try to negotiate a much lower charge rate with that school and paying you a very low daily rate, so that they continue to earn their commission after 12 weeks without increasing your pay, arguing that a person doing the equivalent work in that particular school is being paid well below nationally agreed teachers scales. This could well be the case and your union will not be able to negotiate much more on your behalf. Many of the notorious academy chains tend not to use agency staff anyway but it would be compliant with current legislation if they chose to pay you much less because their own pay scales are ludicrously low to start with.

    Many agencies have secured the work at any given school by undercutting other agencies. This could mean that at 12 weeks they will be hiring you out at a deficit if they increase your rate of pay to parity rates. Although it is not best practice, the agency does not have to inform the school of AWR rates and might just offer the school someone much cheaper at 12 weeks and give the placement to someone else. Sadly this is not a breach of their contract with you. They are an intermediary and not an employer so you do not have the same rights as an employee would have.
    This means there is very little the unions can do as they cannot intercede where your contract leaves you with fewer statutory rights.

    More reputable agencies have factored in the potential rise in pay and thus charge schools a much higher fee than others but it means that you can request your rights at 12 weeks.
    Under no circumstances are you to discuss this with the client school. It will be written into you contract that you cannot request information about what their charge rate is.

    If the school decides to hire you permanently at this point, they are usually obliged to pay a transfer fee to the agency. This will normally be in excess of 10% of your gross annual salary, so as a result of this, very few schools hire teachers who have been working as agency supply.

    Your contract with the agency will specify that you cannot apply independently to a school to whom they introduced you until a period of 6 months from the last period of employment with that school has elapsed or the school will still be obliged to pay the transfer fee.

    Tactically, therefore, it is advisable to negotiate a higher rate of pay before a long term placement commences. If a one day placement grows into a longer term placement, it is evident that the school values your services, so you have some leverage at that point to ask your agency for an increase in pay to allow for the increased level of time and responsibility. However it is not a statutory requirement on the agency's part.

    For further information read the union guidelines pinned at the top of this forum and https://www.gov.uk/agency-workers-your-rights/your-rights-as-a-temporary-agency-worker
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
  16. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    More information on rates of pay

    Cover supervisor pay rates for qualified teachers. Unacceptable and potentially a breach of contract.

    If an agency offers you Cover Supervisor rates for day to day work, it is wise to question such an offer.
    If a school has requested a cover supervisor from the agency, the school should be charged a lower rate. However this obliges the school only to use you as a cover supervisor, which means you are not to plan work, mark work or do any other duties than supervise a pre-planned lesson and go home as soon as the children leave.
    Some agencies offer CS rates of £50 per day. This is unacceptable. £90 per day is the absolute lowest rate for any CS role and is equivalent to the higher rate of payscales for a full time CS. £110 is the lowest acceptable teacher rate and is roughly equivalent to spine point 1.

    It is a breach of the school/agency contract and non compliant practice on the part of the agency if they are charging the school for a teacher but paying you as a cover supervisor.
    Conversely, it is a breach of that same contract on the part of the school if they have requested a cover supervisor to save money but use you as a teacher with the expectation that you remain in school after classes to mark work and do other duties.
    This is particularly pertinent to primary teachers as there is an expectation that you will mark or give some basic feedback on literacy and numeracy work done under your supervision if you are hired as a teacher even for a single day. The school should provide you with its marking policy. It is advisable to ask for this if it is not provided but again, only if you have been hired as a teacher and not a cover supervisor.

    You have to clarify this with your agency before you arrive at the school. The best way to avoid this is not to accept CS roles if you are a qualified teacher.

    You can report any branch of any agency to their head office if you suspect that they are not complying with Conduct of Employment Agency legislation by failing to provide the school with what they are contractually bound to provide.
  17. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    As you will see from the headings for this thread, the whole point is to alert people to the pitfalls of naively quitting a full time job for supply. Yes, work is dwindling but not for everyone. Several people who read these posts but who don't comment, need this information.

    This forum only gives a snapshot so the feedback from a few dozen people indicates a downturn in availability of work and a decrease in daily pay rates. This does not constitute a national statistic.

    The gross turnover of the combined agency business in education over the financial year to April 2015 is well over £1bn, so clearly some agencies are well and truly in business. It is hard to avoid value judgments, but that is what this thread aims to do.

    The point of this thread is to focus on supply contracts and what this implies for anyone planning to work for agencies or those currently employed by schools through agencies. This second category is a far larger section of the staff of any school than you might realise.

    There are thousands of long term agency teachers in regular work but sadly being exploited by their agencies.

    They need to know their rights.

    You would be surprised at the overall figures. I have them. Please contact me. We are all very disappointed about the current parlous state of supply teaching and the poor practice of so many agencies. This does not alter the fact that people need to be aware of the their rights and how to assert those rights.

    This is not a thread for discussion on the merits or otherwise of the agency model of employment or the fluctuations in the privatised sector of schools recruitment.
  18. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter


    This is a very useful Information thread about Supply Working. The aim is not to have a discussion, nor a Q&A forum, but to give useful general information for others to read.

    If you have a question, please start a new thread to ask it, rather than putting it in here. You start a new thread by going back to the Supply forum page, and clicking on the blue box saying Post new thread.

    Sensible, well-balanced and informative contributions will be welcomed.

    I have deleted posts that did not comply with the Community Guidelines/Terms and Conditions.

    And please remember that under the Guidelines/T&C, you may not post about any specific Agency, School, etc.

    Best wishes

  19. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    FAQ Corner

    (A quick round-up of the questions that visitors to this forum have often asked)

    1. Which is the best agency?

    This would be rather like a turkey asking which is the best stuffing. Site rules prevent anyone from recommending agencies and very few users of this forum would hurry to recommend their own. You don't have to be with an agency to work as a supply teacher. There are options. Agencies did not take over where LEA supply pools left off. They have created a very profitable market by charging high rates to schools and paying low rates to teachers.

    2. I have an interview with an agency, what should I do to prepare?

    Inhale, exhale and ensure the continued circulation of your blood. As long as you can show proof of identity, QTS and DBS, they will register you. They may or may not have client schools who require your services. They offer no guarantees unless you accept a very restrictive contract.

    3. My agency never places me, can I unregister?

    Yes. Just email them and ask them to take you off the active register and to delete any contact, NI, bank and other details.

    4. My agency says I need public liability insurance. How much should I pay?

    You don't need it, don't pay. Under current H&S rules, the client school's own policy will cover temporary staff. Anyway, it is very rare for supply teachers to be asked to cover practical science, cookery or contact rugby lessons. If a child is hurt at school, it is the school's responsibility. Conversely, if you sustain an injury on the premises, it is also the school's responsibility via the LEA or Academy sponsor.

    5. My agency says I am not allowed to register with other agencies.

    This is not correct. If you use agencies, you can sign on with all your local branches. Or you can set up as a free lance supply teacher and contact schools yourself.

    6. How can I claim back lunch and travel expenses?

    You can't. Some agencies will sign you up to a payroll system that appears to refund travel expenses but this is in the form of tax offsets and not cash refunds. The admin. costs of these services cancel out any financial gain. Just agree a better daily pay rate.

    7. What is the standard daily pay rate for a supply teacher?

    There are no fixed pay scales. Rates vary by region but they are completely arbitrary. Some parts of London and East Anglia have a higher mode average, some parts of Wales and the West Midlands have the lowest rates in the UK.
    All pay rates are negotiable. They do not relate to your qualifications and experience or to the type of school, or age group.

    8. My agency says that they offer holiday pay. How much can I expect?

    Very little if any. Some agencies pay a tiny increment every day in lieu of holiday pay, so come summer, you get nothing. Some deduct a small contribution based on the number of hours worked so you might accrue a small bonus which will be paid and taxed. You only get paid for the hours you work. The agency is not your employer so you have far fewer rights than an employee?

    Can I continue to pay into the Teachers' Pension Scheme?

    No. Agencies are obliged to offer a Workplace Pension Scheme by law but because they are not schools (statutory service providers), they are not eligible to take part in TPS. The schemes they offer are very small, taking contributions of less than £10 per week (= about £300 per annum at best).

    10. My agency has said that I can't apply to schools directly any more as it is now illegal.

    This is not correct. You can quite legally work as a free-lance supply teacher. It is not easy to build up a client base, but it can be done.
    What they mean is that you cannot strike up a private deal with a school if the agency has introduced you to that school in the last six months.
    However, it is not illegal to give your contact details to a client school if they ask for them.
    It anyone ever found out, it might be considered a breach of contract but it is definitely not illegal.

    11. How much should the agency charge me for a DBS check?

    Nothing. There is a standard statutory charge which you can authorise them to deduct from your wages. Any other admin charges are in breach of conduct of Employment Agency legislation and can be reported to their head office.
    Use the online renewal service on the DBS website, this will make your DBS certificate portable and acceptable anywhere.

    12. A friend has introduced me to his/her agency in London but they haven't given me any work. What should I do?

    Dump that friend. Please don't tell me you actually went to London for this. Your friend is greedy and foolish. Many agencies have a scheme whereby if you get a friend to sign up, they will give you £100. Mostly this payment is not a cash bonus but vouchers for shops you never use. Your friend has been had. Now this so-called agency has all your contact and personal details. Soon you will be bombarded with junk mail and invitations to introduce all your friends. Nice one, friend! You don't need that sort of person in your life.

    13. Can I ask my agency for a reference for a job application?

    No, they are not your employer. They are an intermediary. They are not obliged to write a professional reference. They can only confirm that you are who you say you are and that you registered with them on a certain date. This will not impress prospective employers.

    14. I am pregnant/ill. Will I get any payments?

    Not through your agency. They are not your employer so are under no obligation to hold a post open for you or pay you anything other than the hours you work. You may be entitled to benefits under the new Universal Credit system that is about to be rolled out but it will be the statutory minimum which is now very low. If you are not a UK citizen you might not be entitled to anything at all.

    15. I signed up with my agency because they contacted me about a full time job in good school close to where I live but they still haven't arranged an interview. Can they do that?

    Yes. Many agencies use these "teaser" advertisements to get people to sign up, often for posts that they are not commissioned to recruit or for vacancies that do not exist. The chances of getting a permanent post through an agency are about 10/1 against as agencies charge the school a fee of about £2000 for linking you up.

    16. My agency sent me on a trial day to a school who were going to hire me for the rest of the term. I covered the outgoing teacher's lessons and was observed for a few minutes. They didn't interview me and I understand that someone else got the job.

    Looks like you just did a day's work for free. Don't go for trial days unless you are definitely being interviewed for the job and the school has taken up references. Trial days mean doing a day's work without payment. It is legal but it is not ethical.
    If the school wants to recruit teachers, there is a procedure. The school's governors ought to know this. If the agency has a deal with the school to send them bogus candidates for weeks on end so that they cover staff shortages for free, it is only the school and the kids who will suffer.
    Say no to trial days.

    17. My agency has signed me to an umbrella payroll company. Do I have to agree?

    No. The next budget (April 2016) is likely to restrict the use of umbrella payroll companies anyway so agencies will have to offer their own in house payroll. They should not charge you for this service. Contact their head office and ask what they plan to do about this if you are already on UC payroll.

    I was speaking to another supply teacher who works for the same agency and she mentioned that she gets paid £25 per day more than me. Is this legal?

    Yes. You have to haggle for the day rate you want. The school will be paying the agency about £180 - £200 per day, sometimes a lot more.
    If the sum on your contract says £100 per day, you should have queried that before you agreed to work for them.
    Agencies never disclose to the client school what they are paying you and the client school never discloses to you what they pay the agency. Likewise teachers tend not to disclose what they are earning as it is technically a breach of contract.

    19. I was told that I can't get a rise after 12 weeks because I am on a guaranteed work contract. Can I change it?

    On a standard contract, you are entitled to be paid the full time rate after 12 weeks. if you are on the same placement. This is in compliance with Agency Workers Regulations (AWR)
    If your contract contains the wording "Regulation 10" or "Swedish Derogation" you have forfeited that right.
    If your agency gave you no choice and made you agree to a Regulation 10 contract without letting you know that this is optional, you can contact their head office and ask them to change your contract.

    20. I think my agency is ripping me off. Who can I report them to?

    The whole employment agency sector, a multi billion pound industry in the UK, has no statutory regulator. They are not anserable to any single Government department.
    There are many businesses who adhere to the small amount of legislation that covers recruitment, but they are largely a law unto themselves.
    They can make and break promises, they can pay you what they like, they can charge schools whatever they like. As long as they provide schools with staff whose identity and DBS is verifiable, they have no other statutory obligations.

    21. I have cancelled my union membership now that I am a supply teacher.

    Bad move. As long as you are a qualified teacher, even if you have retired but do the odd day of supply, you can still use their services. They do reduced rates for supply teachers and retired teachers.

    22. All the schools in my area source their supply teachers through agencies. What can I do?

    Give them a choice. Set yourself up as a freelance supply teacher.
    You've got what they want.
    Schools want to know:
    If you are available at short notice.
    If you have DBS.
    If you are a qualified teacher.
    How they can contact you at short notice/out of hours.
    What you charge.
    If you are prepared to cover any subject, any level, any age.

    If you're not working, fill up that time profitably. Set up a website giving all that information. Show a classy, professional-looking photo of yourself. Give a brief resume of your skills and experience. Add a couple of glowing quotes from satisfied head teachers.
    Look at the websites of agencies and learn. How do they make it look so slick and professional. You can do that.
    Read up on how to set up your own business. All you need is a laptop, a phone, a suit and a decent haircut.
    You can self-assess tax, remember you really can offset travel expenses, the cost of that laptop, phone, suit and haircut too once you are declared as self-employed but without the agency and payroll company biting huge chunks out of the money you earned.

    Now sell it.
    Ring around and find out who administers the supply at all your local schools.
    Let the finance committee of their board of governors know that they could save a lot of money.
    Push schools to give you a brief meeting. You do this by telling them dates and times when you are free and nail them to one or the other, don't ask them to fix a time or it will never happen. Go there, charm them and then leave them a card and a leaflet with a built-in order form.
    Follow it up with a call and an email.
    Make them feel like they already said yes.

    You can beat the agencies at their own game. That's how they do it. Read up on how to sell. It will inform your classroom practice too and make you a more assertive person.

  20. les25paul

    les25paul Star commenter

    My thoughts on References

    This could a tricky one particularly if you are an agency teacher and applying for a teaching role or to join another agency and seeking a reference from a previous long term supply placement.

    If applying for a teaching post then the school you are applying to will generally want a reference from your last Headteacher. But its very likely the Headteacher will not know you or have idea of your abilities, some Heads might believe its not their responsibility to give out refeences for supply teachers since you have not been an employee of the school. This will be even more of the case if you have finished your placement there and left.

    For obvious reasons you don't want to give an agency reference to another agency.

    You might find that your Head of Department might be willing to provide such a reference. I have had no issues with HoDs providing references for me but these have been for non-teaching jobs or for another agency. But a HoD might be unable to provide such a reference for a contracted teaching job because of the terms of their contract.

    You also have a problem if you have no recent long term placement from which a reference can be obtained. Schools are very unlikely to provide reference for daily cover supply teachers (unless you are a very frequent visitor).

    If either of the two above apply then you have little option but to use your agency, they are your employer, of a sort. They might refuse or write a very basic one along the lines of dates you worked or they might be willing to write a better one depending on your relationship with them. They could (if they choose to ) comment on your realibility and feedback from schools but they will be unable to personally comment on your teaching skills.

    Sorry no easy answer to this one :(
    chirpyandcheerful likes this.

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