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Supply in Scotland -What's going on?

Discussion in 'Scotland - education news' started by scotsexile, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. scotsexile

    scotsexile New commenter

    Once upon a time working as a Supply Teacher in Scotland was nearly always a worthwhile experience both financially and 'spiritually' (for want of a better word) but that's all changed. Having worked outside Scotland for nearly a decade I tried to keep up with events and was aware of how Supply Teachers had been stabbed in the back regarding pay but I had no idea that the school and classroom experience had altered so drastically.

    Whilst the pupils are generally delightful, classroom teachers welcoming and supportive there has been a sea change amongst many PTs and DHTs which often manifests itself in open hostility. Whereas in the past work was usually provided for pupils this is very often not the case today. Too many times STs are not even provided with basic information such as a school handbook, information on disciplinary policies and (yes) timetables. Sometimes classroom numbers and locations aren't provided. They are often spoken to like they are naughty pupils and expected to conjure up lessons on the spot without notice.Why has this happened? What have Supply Teachers done to be treated so unprofessionally? There is a contempt and spite against STs from some quarters that just did not exist ten years ago.
  2. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    I have no experience of supply teaching myself so can't really compare what you wrote.

    I was a cover teacher for a few years and although I was treated relatively well there was never any doubt that I was a second-class teacher.

    My own school's department treats new permanent staff and long-term supply staff abysmally. Newbies are given the poorest classes from S1 to S6 and their skills, eg behaviour management, are questioned if a few ferals decide to riot.
    I thought those days were over, you know, everyone mucking in, but no, definitely not.

    Heid doon, get on wi' it!
    scotsexile likes this.
  3. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    I have no experience of supply teaching myself so can't comment.

    I was permanent cover for a few years and, although I was treated well in general, there is no doubt that you are somehow a second-class teacher.

    My own school dept treats new permanent staff and long-term supply staff abysmally. They are given the worst classes from S1 to S6, and your behaviour management skills are questioned if some pupils in your class decide to riot. I thought those days were over but, apparently not.

    Heid doon and get on wi' it.
  4. vforvendetta

    vforvendetta New commenter

    I've been a supply teacher for years, having pretty much given up on looking for a long term post (not young or pretty enough, I'm told). I have come across a few PTs who run their departments like little emperors, and don't appreciate an interloper. They don't realise that you are doing them a favour by your very presence. Some of them are barely out of teacher training, and expect experienced teachers to conform to their infantile pandering style of teaching. They have never had to do supply work, because they were all singing and dancing at every interview, so have no appreciation of it as an experience (as we say in cfe la la land).
    Most teachers are fine, however, and are grateful not to have to cover classes.
    I don't do short term supply anymore, for obvious reasons, but I would always expect work to be left for me. Long term is a different matter. Also, never bring materials, its not your responsibility. If pupils don't have a pen or pencil, tough, here's a pink felt pen I discovered in a drawer.
    If anyone wants to treat me abysmally, they can look for someone else (oh, wait, there is no one else!), and if something better comes along, have no loyalties, because they have no loyalty to you.
    By the way, apparently I'm an in demand subject. Strange that my door isn't being beaten down. The budgets are so tight, the local authorities are not bothering to look for supply staff, and schools think there are non of us left. It's a farce.
    ryeland, kibosh and scotsexile like this.
  5. Effinbankers

    Effinbankers Lead commenter

    Two words - "Faculty Head". One of the big problems.

    You have people who don't have a clue what is going on in their department because they don't know the nuances of each subject, advising supply teachers. I have one on my corridor wouldn't lower himself to speak to a supply teacher for a subject he "manages" but doesn't care about. They take the money but don't have a scooby. In the old days you had a PT subject and often an APT who could help put a supply teacher (especially general supply) at ease.

    Change is not good.
    scotsexile likes this.
  6. scotsexile

    scotsexile New commenter

    Thanks for the replies folks. It's a depressing situation for sure but because it's such a solitary experience it is heartening in a way to discover that our experiences are pretty much universal.
    I have no idea what has been going on behind the scenes over the last few years regarding school management and their approach to supply teachers but it's as if they have been instructed to give us a hard time. For what purpose it's hard to fathom. There still are personable PTs, DHTs and Heads who appreciate what we do and are supportive but compared to several years ago they appear to be in a diminishing minority.
    I keep hearing 'we can't get supply teachers' and then seeing why they can't get them. I've been treated with outright hostility on one occasion literally within seconds of meeting a PT which was utterly dispiriting. Why can't the permanent folk see it?
    I'd be interested to find out if any permanent staff, perhaps recently retired, could enlighten us as to why things appear to have changed so drastically.
  7. inthered

    inthered Occasional commenter

    God, we're always so grateful for a supply teacher who has some knowledge of the subject that we buy them a special mug. To date we have about quite a few mugs. We're generally pretty helpful and friendly, it's a grim job. There's never enough time, however, to explain/photocopy/hand over files etc so I'm sure they mostly feel a bit as if they've been run over by a steamroller for the first wee while, but I always make sure there are lessons which they can use or dip into, especially if they're non-specialists.
    kibosh, Flere-Imsaho and scotsexile like this.
  8. scotsexile

    scotsexile New commenter

    Yes, there are still PTs and DHTs who are helpful and supportive but where there is negativity it often manifests itself in outright hostility which I did not experience at all in the past. The worst that would happen previously was varying degrees of disorganisation but nearly always the reception was positive and even grateful. I'm not basing my current findings on my experience alone but on what I have also been told by other Supply Teachers in person and online.
    At a time of unprecedented rates of (understandable) absenteeism amongst permanent staff it's all the more shocking to be treated quite so badly and still be subjected to the 'we can't get supply teachers' mantra. The reasons why are blindingly obvious.
    bigjimmy2 likes this.
  9. Flere-Imsaho

    Flere-Imsaho Star commenter

    We can't get supply but then I wouldn't work for the short term rates either.

    I like to think that we're very kind to any supply (biscuits and coffee freely available!) but when you have three members of staff off in the department and you're desperately searching to find appropriate work for a dozen classes, the bell for your own class has already gone and some lovely supply lady insists on being talked through - in excruciating detail - what the work on pages 122-34 of the textbook involves enthusiasm can get a little frayed.
  10. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    Does anybody have absenteeism figures?

    Moderation in Moderation.
  11. halfajack

    halfajack Occasional commenter

    I'm baffled at the hostility. Shocking. Can you give us some examples?
  12. gnulinux

    gnulinux Occasional commenter

    A significant part of the problem is obviously down to the derisory rate of pay for supply teaching, indicating that supply teachers were/are not valued. However that is really only the tip of the iceberg. There are much more fundamental failings in schools which mean that when a school has to resort to 'supply', if it can be got, the whole process of teaching/learning descends into chaos.

    When PT's were (largely) done away with a few years ago, to save money, they were replaced with Faculty Managers ( said by some egregious jokers from the Directorate class to be an essential for CfE to proceed). These FM's were often young, inexperienced and sometimes incompetent, but astute enough to pull the wool over the eyes of interview panel members wanting a quick result. FM's have in some cases allowed teaching to be done on a 'hand to mouth' basis and have neglected to 'manage' their Faculties in any meaningful sense. That is just asking for trouble of course.

    Teachers who have been through the numerous course changes since the mid 1980's will know that there is an unwritten expectation for courses to be delivered using the 'Resource-Based' model. That is, before a course starts teachers need to have created all the materials for the course so that if anyone should be 'off' for any reason, pupils can effectively teach themselves from materials they have or are readily accessible with minimal intervention from a 'baby-sitting' supply teacher, or perhaps a colleague from another dept. who is 'non-teaching'/available.

    If resource-based learning is properly implemented, then when a teacher is 'off' and a supply teacher turns up, pupils should a) know what they are doing, b) have teaching/learning materials to hand, and c) be able to access extension materials with little fuss. The supply teachers role then is, more or less, to maintain order and calm in the classroom.

    Schools should be organised to obviate a descent into chaos when a supply teacher calls; if not then there are plenty of staff who are not doing their jobs properly and should be held accountable, starting with the HT.

    Supply teachers of course come in many different 'shapes' and sizes, from competent, helpful and professional down to lazy, incompetent and sometimes downright beligerent.
    awizarsd49 likes this.
  13. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    When I joined my present school . . .

    The two S1 classes I had were pretty standard, S1 always being a bit of a hit or miss.

    I was given the lowest two S2 classes, so stupefyingly thick that weans literally threw things at me. The Learning/ Behaviour Support dept called a meeting to "discuss my handling of these two classes" (in an attempt to bully me) but I basically called their bluff by taking control of the meeting and (boldly) stating that I had been teaching for over a decade, knew how to handle classes, and my pupils by and large respect me.
    As a side issue, that's the last time I ever "bid" for Learning/Behaviour Support - if that dept doesn't know which pupils need support then I am flucked if I'm going to "justify" asking for "support" when they know fine and well which pupils need support, what their problems are and the strategies used to support them.

    I was given two S3 Standard Grade classes: they were appalling academically and behaviour-wise. The S4 class I had just left at my previous school all ended up getting Credit grades that summer and we departed on very tearful terms (!). Both of my new S3 classes would have struggled big-time with Intermediate 1, never mind Standard Grade. Most of the pupils in both classes could not tell the time from an analog clock . . .

    My S4 class was also "uncontrollable". My predecessor apparently had one of the pupils by the throat whilst defending himself from a physical attack. Said ned was removed and I had the remaining bunch eating out of my hand soon enough.

    I also had the lowest S5/6 class for Intermediate 2 and they were actually OK (they ended up with the best Intermediate 2 scores in the city, btw!).

    So, in summary, in my first year in this hellhole of a school I am presently in, I was given 8 classes and 6 of those were either behaviourally-poor, academically poor or both. That was an attempt to "put me in my place" and knock any individuality out of me. It didn't work.

    And, I'm not "only" a mere supply teacher!

    Moderation in Moderation.
  14. brothermunro

    brothermunro Occasional commenter

    Depends where you live but a combination of shrinking budgets and lack of staff (certainly for short term) means that supply teachers are very rare. Given the shocking conditions they work under (I've done some myself) it is hardly surprising no one really wants to do it either.
  15. ryeland

    ryeland New commenter

    My experiences have varied, yes I have found myself feeling second class once or twice and in one horrid experience being treated by pupils as a non-teacher (However the staff at that school were wonderful and very supportive). Usually it's been great apart from the pay thing and difficulty in getting work at times. The last school I did a short term cover for was utterly fantastic - organised, good work left, trusted my professionalism and very supportive. I have been very fortunate in getting lots of year long gigs, and this brings along the biggest disappointment - I cannot watch pupils develop and succeed.
  16. bigjimmy2

    bigjimmy2 Lead commenter

    I'd forget about that last comment nowadays, ryeland, most teachers don't have the time to actually care about pupils any more.

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