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Offering the Truth About Supply - Questions Answered (Hopefully)

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by educ80, Aug 9, 2010.

  1. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    I work as a recruitment consultant for a Supply Teaching agency and during my 7 year career have worked for both large and small agencies in both Primary and Secondary Education.
    I initially joined the TES website to get job reminders but more and more frequently I now check the forums in order to gauge the emotion and feeling of supply teachers both locally and nationally. It helps me communicate better with my own staff and have an improved understanding of the matters at the heart of the problems they face.
    Although I empathise with many of the difficulties faced by supply staff as I often hear about them directly, I also find the attacks on agencies (frequently we are 'money-grabbing' 'un-caring' 'absent' and 'unaware') a little one-sided, especially on a forum which allows very little recourse for defence. To this end, and as its the summer holidays and we tend to be less busy as agencies, I would love to try and offer an honest, open and straight forward forum for those of you with pressing issues, general queries, criticisms or just a few gripes about the system.
    I will do my utmost to give both a proffessional and personal opinion whilst remaining unbiased and anonymous in order to avoid the inevitable accusation of self-promotion. If I can help anyone improve their supply career, supply options or dispel some of the myths then it has been a positive exercise. If people would rather simply complain and carry on belligerently then that of course is the freedom they have.
    I hope to hear from a host of you all in the near future.

  2. jillinthebox

    jillinthebox New commenter

    So basically - you want to tell us we're all wrong when we're mucked around by agencies, blackmailed that if we don't accept dross we won't get any good bookings, that they don't have horrifically bad staff turnover meaning we get no consistency of relationships between teacher-consultant, don't exist to drive down what they pay to teachers to ridiculous levels in order to increase their own profit/market share and don't view us as completely their property, able to demand completely unacceptable levels of information about our non work related movements (sorry - if I say I'm unavailable one day - I'm unavailable - it's not your business if another agency has me out and working or if I'm in the doctors getting my haemorroids done - I'm not on an exclusivity contract).
    Think I'll pass mate. My supply career's doing just fine since I worked on my assertiveness skills a little.
    For what it's worth - I have one agency who are fab, who I have a good relationship with the consultants, who actually listen to the preferences I have with age/location and I can have a good craic on with the consultants there - the others - do all of the negative stuff on varying amounts of occasions and if I was younger and more malleable - they'd have driven down my daily rate and sent me on 50 mile each way trips every day a helluva lot.
    Alexandra1978 likes this.
  3. ~educ80.
    You could be anyone and anybody.
    Maybe TES could validate that you are a consultant for a known supply agency? (Whlst retaining your anonymity if you are indeed kosher).
    I will forward this mail to Gail Robinson (TES moderator) as anyone and anyone can join a forum and claim to be anyone and anybody. One has to be careful these days.
    Could be that you are genuine. Could be you are not.
  4. May2

    May2 Established commenter

    I wondered if you could say what the chances are of getting supply as an NQT in September for secondary ICT or Business. Would jobs be just general secondary or not much at all due to Cover Supervisors. I am talking about the South east of England Camb/Essex/Herts.
  5. I have two good agencies. The rest are dreadful.
    bullying (take it or you will not be offered more work)
    High turnover of negotiators. An agency which treats it's supply staff badly treat their own staff badly.
    Schools with an unthoughtful attitude to us
    Quality Mark - from the supply teachers point of view biggest joke in the supply sector,
    Schools moaning about the quality of supply when they are only working with the low paying naff agencies.
  6. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    Thanks for venting your fury, but again, all I had hoped for was an opportunity to answer questions. Remaining anonymous means two things;
    1) I cant possibly benefit from the things I say
    2) I have no alterior motive and thus no reason to lie.

    I hoped to offer the story from the other side of the fence and at the very least explain why certain things are done. I can tell you are angry but laying all the blame at the feet of a consultant or agencies is a little blinded.
    What do you mean by 'mucked about'. Maybe youve been misled before or taken for granted but if you have specifics I will try and explain the background behind them, even if its just to tell you 'Yes, youve been lied to' or 'Thats happened for increased profit' I just know for a fact that its not always the case - proven by the fact that you have an agency you trust and work well with.....They do exist.
    If you would like me to pass a proffessional comment on any of the things youve said Id genuinely be happy to do so. Or if you have any questions rather than a barrage of abuse then equally Im happy to discuss things openly. As much as people have disbelieved my intentions I am genuinely trying to help - Im acutely aware of how tough things are for supply teachers - and subsequently, me.
  7. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    That is true I could be anyone and anybody and Im sure the TES moderator will ok that, hopefully keeping my identity anonymous too. However I dont see how offering this service could benefit me in anyway if I wasnt who I say I am.
    Maybe Im being naive but I dont see it. The terms and conditions of use of this forum prohibit me (and everyone else) from naming agencies and members of my staff so I cant self-promote nor criticise other agencies. My aim is to try and promote the Supply Teacher industry a little. It has a pretty poor reputation across the board from both Schools who see it often as a necesarry evil and agencies as ambulance-chasing corporate pirates, and from supply staff who see us as manipulative, ignorant and greedy. Im fully aware of our reputation and it makes my job ten times harder so Id like to shed a little light and honesty across it and explain a few things. Its not entirely altruistic but really doesnt benefit me beyond giving the sector I work in a better name. Hopefully.

  8. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    Hello May2
    Hopefully the ground I cover now will already have been covered by an agency for your area but I will mention what I know of national trends so sorry if its very generalised.....
    Firstly, any agency that 'promises' you regular work in September must be taken with a pinch of salt. Having worked for arguably the biggest of the whole bunch, I know that September is the quietest time of the year across the board and supply is hard to come by. The reasons are quite straight-forward.
    (i) Everyone is well-rested after the break and illness is uncommon
    (ii) Course cover is minimal at the start of the year and even more so this year due to financial restrictions imposed from Whitehall
    (iii) The "dreaded" cover supervisors!!! Now I could talk all day about them but some people seem to think that agencies invented them but really the governments relaxing of regulations of who can lead/look after a class has led to schools themselves inventing the position. There are now more and more and the reaction to them has been mixed. Some schools love them, some dont, however at a time of year when supply is scarce then the cheaper option will often be considered - Cover Supervisors are cheaper.
    This begins to paint a fairly negative picture of September, but in all honesty, it is tough, no point sugar coating it. The best way to get work is to be flexible. What I say to all of the teachers I register, from NQTs to ex-heads, is that YOU set your own boundaries (i.e. How far you travel, what subjects, what age ranges, what type of school and the length of contract you want) and if, a few weeks down the line you find you arent getting any work then you may need to re-think your boundaries. If you stroll in as an NQT and demand £150 per day and will only work in 3 postcode areas in a leafy school that finishes at 2pm then work will be very scarce. If you are prepared to work for a bit less, will go anywhere at least once, will travel a good distance and will cover all age groups then you'll soon be top of the pile. It also means that when the busy times come round you are in a stronger position to negotiate UP, and you can pick and choose and make up for your September shortfall by cashing in in December - April when its manic.
    Ultimately agencies DO want to find you work, at the very least its beacause they earn money from you doing it. Also because the more you work for them the more positive you will feel about them and hopefully talk about them in a positive way. The point Im making is that if you arent getting work it isnt neccesarrily that youve done something wrong, it can be that there is no work that fits your criteria and you may need to re-visit it. It is very important to keep close to your agency about your own reputation though.
    To explain that point (and Im rambling a bit here so sorry) The major gripe I have from supply teachers is that they arent getting enough work, often when I inherit teachers from previous consultants then they have never had feedback despite the fact that 4 or 5 schools dont want them back because of an incident that happened 18 months ago that was never fedback to the teacher. This means the consultant and subsequently the agency get it into their heads that the teacher isnt any good and they begin to slip down the list........this in all honesty is because of poor consultancy on the agencies side but try and keep abreast of any feedback, positive or negative. This gives you the opportunity to respond if incidents, accusations or the old 'couldnt control the classroom' comments come back.
    Ive got off track A LOT here so to return to you original question. As long as you are willing to do general cover, not just Business Studies/ICT then you will get more. Dont rule out schools on reputation alone, try everything once and then make a judgement. Ive placed many staff that have been reluctant to go to a school based on what people have said but have loved the atmosphere and the staffroom environment once they get in there. If there's a school you really want to get into then consider taking a day there as a Cover Supervisor. Yes you'll get paid roughly £40 less for the days work but so will the agency (we dont make more on cover supervisors you know) and you'll get a chance to look at the school, speak to members of staff, try and chat to the head of ICT/Business, flog yourself and offer yourself up for a day at the mercy of the school and WOW them for a day. That has to be better for your career then saying no to a day because youre not getting enough money.........
    Speak to your agency on a regular basis - try and avoiding irritating them - but remind them you are there. If your preferences do change and you decide you will do primary or cover supervising or A'Level work etc then let them know and if you are wanting Long Term work then tell them and keep reminding them.
    If you come across other supply teachers, ask about their agency and if they are any good, You can join as many as you like and if you like your own you can earn money from most by reccomending fellow supply teachers join yours. Also another supply teacher that works regularly at the school down the road may know of a Business Studies appointment or a friend thats going on mat leave soon etc etc.
    Best of luck for the coming academic year and Im sorry that Ive rambled a bit
    If you have any subsequent questions arising from my rant then please feel free to ask.
  9. jillinthebox

    jillinthebox New commenter

    Agencies invented the "supply cover supervisor" (i.e. the same supply we'd send you anyway but we've bullied them into getting half what they should be).
    I've got no sympathy for you - piddle off.
  10. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    Its good to know that most of the people commenting here do at least have one good experience of supply agencies otherwise I would be very dissapointed in the industry, but obviously there are a lot of problems still.
    Bullying - Ive never come across a consultant in my time using that phrase or implying it as strongly as that but I can see that it may happen. If your agency is regularly 'threatening' you like this then speak to the office manager where possible. If the company is reputable and the manager is half decent it should not happen again. If it continues then you can either leave and/or report them to the REC (recruitment and employment confederation - an over-arching board set up to audit and police recruitment companies and ensure they are behaving ethically and proffessionally) It seems an incredibly negative thing to do as it alienates you the teacher and youre already on the backfoot by the time you arrive at the school that is one of... (a) A million miles away (b) A very challenging school (c) A school youve been to before and dont like, hence the fact youve said no in the first place.
    High Turnover - I will explain this but thats all I can do as its something quite unavoidable in my opinion. Recruitment in general is a very high pressure job. Its a targetted environment so there is constant stress to achieve and subsequently it isnt the right kind of working environment for some. Like in any environment, a change of personnel can provide unrest and disturbance and as the industry is relatively new, there arent many experienced managers around and offices suffer as a result. Also its not an easy job. There is a common misconception that we as consultants merely sit and wait for incoming calls and when they come we call our favourite staff and thats it. In the geographical area I work, across 4 LEAs there are 42 supply agencies ranging from One guy in his living room, to multi-national multi-discipline recruitment machines, all of them trying to get business from all the same schools I am. Consultants are targetted on making calls (roughly 30 a day - mostly to schools who'd rather tell us where to go then have a nice comfy chat about supply) how many interviews they do (roughly 5 a week) Visits to see school decision-makers (roughly 5 a week). We often have to vet our own candidates, chase references, CRBs, List99s and maintain the paper files so they stand up to auditting from the GTC, DCSF and the REC. We start at 7 and finish at 6 (or later is things need doing)......Also, the pay isnt great as opposed to other recruitment companies so people get tempted elsewhere. Agencies with the ISO 9000 / 9001 and IIP (Investors in People) should offer training, pension schemes, flexible working conditions etc and thus are more likely to have loyal staff.

    Schools - Schools that have a positive attitude toward their supply staff will benefit exponentially but unfortunately schools still see Supply as a 'Necessary Evil' and an inconvenience to their time. The best example in my experience was a large primary school that, thanks to rigid and enforced guidelines, had all its staff ringing in by 7.15 to declare absence. They would then call us, demand staff were there by 8 and give them a brief tour of the school, sit down and discuss the discipline policies and procedures, talk about troublesome year groups and classes, introduce them to senior leaders and tell them where they would be at certain points in the day should they need them. This school had 650 pupils and drew from a sink council estate for its intake and was THE MOST POPULAR school I dealt with. As a result we began to offer them huge discounts because teachers were willing to take a pay cut to work there - they were offering to take a pay cut!! As a result the school began to circulate that money back into the staffroom with new facilities and more bisuits etc.......
    Unfortunately this is so rare that it sounds quite unbelievable. The reality is that Supply teachers when I started this job in 2003, were stereotypically very poor. Reading newspapers in class, locking kids in cupboards, turning up drunk, swearing in class (all ACTUAL events from my first year in the job) and there is still an opinion that supply teachers are supply teachers because they cant find permanent jobs and thus arent any good. As we know this isnt the case but it is partially our jobs to explain this, and partially supply teachers jobs to turn this opinion around with high quality teaching.

    Quality Mark: Introduced in July 2002 to safeguard the quality procedures in recruitment. "The Quality Mark sets minimum standards for agencies and LAs to reach in areas such as the way they recruit and interview supply teachers, the way they check and manage their performance and the way they stay at the forefront of changes in the teaching sector"
    However this does not ensure quality for supply teachers. In this respect it is very one-sided as there is no 'protection' for supply teachers, I would imagine the reasoning behind that is that should you be unhappy with an agency you would leave. However the derision you speak of is founded to a degree because the Quality Mark is no guarantee of a Quality agency, merely that their processes are in place. To explain further the Quality Mark ensures that we carry out ALL the requisite checks on our staff from right to work, to List 99, to CRB to references etc. The award signifies to the school that the agencies are fulfilling the Child Protection criteria.
    The only thing I can suggest is finding an agency/consultant that is honest, open and listens to you. This is probably harder than it sounds or we wouldnt be having this discussion but Ive found bigger agencies offer more and certified training schemes and often have better packages and hang on to better staff. Having said that though smaller agencies can be more flexible with what they offer you and as they have less staff to look after they can have a more bespoke approach to their staff......which leads me on to......
    Moaning Schools: - Schools will moan at just about anything. I get moaned at every day for things. It is my job to take flak for things that are often not my fault, but as its part of my job its not an issue. However its important to remember that there are BAD supply teachers out there. Sometimes TERRIBLE ones. A consultants reputation can be torn apart by a bad supply day. Even if you are the worlds best supply teacher you can have an off day, which can ruin a relationship in one fell swoop.
    In my experience schools dont moan about quality of supply, more the lack of value. There is a fine line I admit but I have a couple of incredible staff I use that I pay top scale and charge top whack accordingly but Ive never had a complaint about price because they do a great job. Equally NQTs that cost significantly less for schools, are forgiven a few slip-ups or a slightly lesser 'performance' in school because they make up for it by being keen, eager to learn and cheap. Conversely if I have a top scale teacher that sits on his ****, does no marking, leaves the classroom a mess, farts in the staffroom, complains about the HLTAs and then complains he hasnt been paid £155 because he didnt get his timesheet in on time, then I will have a lot of apologising to do to a school despite not having done anything wrong. The school would be well within their rights to ditch me completely and use another agency and refuse to pay, I have to pay the teacher or he'll take me to court, he will refute every accusation and then subsequently complain when I dont use him for the nxt three weeks. This example is extreme I understand but unfortunately it is the odd bad supply teacher and bad agency consultants that tarnish the industry and undo the good work that most of you do.
    Although I dont think you asked me a question I have expressed a range of my opinions, mainly proffessional, some personal, which I hope gives a bit of an insight into the issues you raised.
  11. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    I find it hard to comprehend that you believe that. Truly.
    Do you think that a school/Headteacher would accept a hybrid position that an agency had invented and welcome them into school and then start employing them directly?? Equally It seems unfeasible that the then DfES would have changed their regulations because of agencies, I shudder to think that we're that influential in the world of Education.
    Id also like to ask why you think Cover Supervisors earn us more money? Think about the basic economics of it.....
    1) A school wants a cheaper option
    2) We pay a cover supervisor (for example) £65 and say, an NQT £100
    3) If we charge the same for both then whats the benefit for the school??? Theyre not getting the cheaper option they crave.
    4) We charge £35 less a day for Cover Supervisors - maintaining the same margin
    5) The School saves £35.00!!!!
    If teachers dont want to work as cover supervisors then we get cover supervisors to do it, graduates with TA and sports coaching experience for example. Again, a simple example of supply and demand, the schools want cheaper, we supply them with cover supervisors...
    Also, at no stage did I request sympathy, merely the opportunity to help. If I hated my job sufficiently to request sympathy then I should be looking for another career.
  12. phatsals

    phatsals Senior commenter

    So how much do you charge for a Cover Supervisor and how much do you charge for a Teacher? In other words how much do you make?
  13. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    I will precursor this answer with a caveat that every agency can be different depending on agreements they may have with LEA's or individual schools or families of schools etc but roughly agencies will look to average out at about 30-40% on top of the wage amount. (This can vary for smaller agencies new on the scene and looking to get into a market area and negating profit.)
    i.e. NQT - £100 pay + NI Contribution at 12.8% = 112.8
    40% on top of £112.8 = £157, normally rounded down to £155. Roughly £43 profit.
    Significantly less money is made on top scale teachers as the same calculations give a figure in the region of £245 per day and schools wouldnt pay that. Equally any support staff and Cover Supervisors earn us a little less as the wages are less and margins decrease.
    The real profit is not as it appears though when considering rent, rates, staff costs, CRB costs, CPD courses, marketing and the cost of maintaining paper files etc...The margins are pretty tight
  14. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    With Secondary school supply, the school is rarely in a position to be able to comment on the quality of the supply teacher. We are mainly left to our own devices, often with unsuitable and unchallenging work.
    If I get a call at 8.20 and don't even know the year groups or the ability level that I will be teaching, let alone the topic area, I will have to make the set work more interesting 'on the hop'.
    I sometimes get booked for my MFL specialism and arrive to find that only two of the five lessons are MFL and the rest are Science, PE and geography, or some other permutation. It's setting me up to fail, on a cost basis, versus a cheaper Cover Supervisor, if all I am expected to do is get the pupils to design a poster or complete a few wordsearches. Of course a CS could do that just as well ... so request a subject specialist teacher (or a teacher proven to be flexible subject-wise) and don't write off a day of pupils' education as being just a babysitting exercise!

    The issue is rooted in the previous system (until Sept 2009) of permanent teachers having to cover up to 38 hrs per year for their absent colleagues. Such cover work did not involve the teacher in teaching the class. They would take along sets of books for marking and expect the class to quietly get on with the poster/wordsearch tasks. No head suggested that they should have their pay reduced to CS rates for those cover lessons!
    When I go into a class, with no marking or planning to be done for other lessons, I am there to actively teach and to make sure that it is not a wasted hour for the pupils.
    It's not a level playing field when a Head or HOD makes an assessment of a permanent teacher based on them having had plenty of time to plan their performance with known pupils, but comes to a conclusion on a supply teacher after they've taken over a day's timetable, with perhaps 30 seconds to skim read the 'lesson plan' before the class arrives. Also, in my experience, permanent teachers are more likely to be absent on days when they have either a significant number of challenging classes or no free periods (or both!)
    The only decent reception/introduction to classes that I get on daily supply is from HODs or teachers who have worked on supply themselves. Other staff tend to apologise to the class about not having their usual teacher and ask them to 'work with us and hopefully it will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, we've got a supply in, so bear with us!"
  15. Disgraceful doubletalk!
    How can you be so hypocritical to suggest that well qualified and experienced teachers consider taking on the highly dubious role as "cover supervisor". Are you drumming up business for September or know categorically that supply teaching will not happen next term? Many qualified teachers do not want to be devalued, demeaned, degraded and patronised by being forced down the CS route to nowhere. Would you be teamaker in your own office and take the odd call, passing on queries to others that you cannot "handle" because your company will not pay you the proper "qualified" rate for call centre staff?
    I doubt it!
  16. jillinthebox

    jillinthebox New commenter

    I think this *** needs to leave now... you lost any chance of respect when you started telling us to take work as a CS.
    Don't bother replying to it and it'll soon naff off (haven't we had these "agency I want to show you we're nice really" bods before that always pop up in aug and vanish by sept?)

  17. Very arrogant and suspect?
    The truth about supply? More like drumming up business for CS work, not answering questions openly and honestly BUT dealing in patronising half truths, lies and self-opinionated nonsense.
    Self-serving and self-promoting. NQTs do not get hoodwinked into this drivel.
    Do not be scaremongered by all this bovine scat!
  18. I've got to be honest and say i think "fair play" to the girl - we all have to work with agencies, why not understand their pressures as much as they (try) to understand ours. I think some people are being VERY rude and it is uneccessary!! We don't even know which agency she is from, so like she said ... she can't be "self promoting" or beneift from this. We all know agencies make money from our teaching but personally I feel - thats life!!
  19. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    I appear to have struck a few nerves here but would again like to make a few things clear and ask all of you to try and throw away any prejudice, if just for a second.
    Again I reiterate that I CAN NOT personally gain from this. I am totally anonymous, can not publicise the company I work for and have no intention of touting for business.
    Secondly, and AGAIN I reiterate. Agencies dont make ANY MORE MONEY FROM COVER SUPERVISORS then they do from teachers. I explained this above using financial examples so it should be clear that there is no gain for agencies OR Individual consultants from promoting Cover Supervisors. If the truth be known we have more teaching staff on our books and finding good cover supervisors is very difficult to do, so if I had it my way then teachers would be the only option on supply.
    I also believe that it is a matter of time before standards in attainment fall sharply. I am not criticising cover supervisors as some do a great job but they can not be expected to plan, prepare and asses work as well as a teacher and thus are NOT a long term solution. As an agency we react to the demands of the market - schools want cheaper and we either give them cheaper or we go out of business. I know through communication with my own staff, which ones are perhaps willing to do CS work in the quiet times and will thus ask them. They are entirely at liberty to say no and rule out that type of work, but some, in these financially challenging times, would rather work than not. It is odd and offensive to think that agencies are telling schools to use Cover Supervisors so we can sit in our ivory towers safe in the knowledge that Teachers are getting undermined, undervalued and underpaid but that we are earning <u>NO MORE PROFIT</u>. Think about it, please. It doesnt make sense.
    I have at no stage forced anyone to do anything, there are no positive repurcussions in the long term. If you read my statement I suggested you 'consider taking a day' working as a cover Supervisor. In a time where unemployment is rife, the countrys finances are in dire straits and we are still mired in recession I would do anything I could to get paid so yes, making tea is not what I have been trained to do and have worked hard for years to acheive but it is infintely better then sitting at home, earning nothing and moaning that my job has been given to people less qualified than myself.
    Its a work ethic I find impossible to understand. I agree that Cover Supervisors on long term entirley undermines the entire QTS system but you have two choices. You work though it and register your grievances with the right bodies, or you sit and gather dust waiting for the good times to return waxing lyrical about how youve been hard done by. Whether you agree with them or not there are changes afoot.
  20. educ80

    educ80 Occasional commenter

    - Pedigree
    Just a few questions;
    1) Why would I drum up business for Cover Supervisors?
    2) I cant self-serve or promote as this entire thing is anonymous so what do you mean?
    3) The infomration I am giving is true to the best of my knowledge and experience. NQTs and EVERYONE is at liberty to ignore it, accept or reject it, there is no hood-winking so please explain this?
    4) Arrogant and suspect? I have tried, and perhaps missed the mark, to be as human as possible with my answers, where possible explaining the reasons behind my answers and the subsequent impact for both teachers and agencies. It is not an easy job for either of us wether you believe that for me or not, but all I am trying to do is explain......What is arrogant about that?

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