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Supply work is slow - how does everyone cope?

Discussion in 'Supply teaching' started by svca92, Nov 4, 2015.

  1. svca92

    svca92 New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first year teaching as I have just qualified, and I have maybe had a total of 10 days since September. It really gets me down some days, I just feel useless and that I'm wasting my skills.

    If it wasn't for the Saturday job I have, then I wouldn't really be able to cope. Is this general feeling of supply workers? If so, do you have an alternative method of coping?

    I need someone to talk to about it.

    Thank you.
  2. Fraccy

    Fraccy New commenter

    I try to supplement income through tutoring. I also teach part-time (ie. one weekly lesson) at a small local independent school, where they're grateful for the presence of an experienced teacher. It keeps me in teaching, plus I get occasional tutees.

    Consider developing yourself in other directions. Your skills as a teacher could make you marketable as a freelancer. Computer programming ('coding') is the new hotness, but there's also graphic design, copywriting, translation...
    svchanner likes this.
  3. svca92

    svca92 New commenter

    Ah that's good for you, how did you go about tutoring? Did you just advertise yourself? I would love to have the skills that might make me considerable for 'coding' or graphic design but I don't think I'm qualified enough.

    I was told that supply might pick up after the half term, but it still doesn't really guarantee anything for me.

    Thank you
  4. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi svchanner

    It is extremely difficult working as a supply teacher with no fixed income. I have only just managed for six years since I am married and my husband has his own business although his business was badly affected in the recession and still it has not recovered completely.

    Ten days since September although not brilliant is ten more days than some have had and you are just starting out. I think you may find it will pick up in the next few weeks.

    Your Saturday job is positive since it keeps you busy and working. Fraccy's advice about tutoring and developing yourself in other directions is sound as there are a lot things to do to earn extra money. My husband and I have a network marketing business we are trying to build up. That keeps us positive since it is something to look forward to and keep an interest in.

    I also try to count by blessings each day. Currently in the US there are many people living in their cars and also in the UK many families are homeless. I am blessed to have a roof over my head and at least a chance of work.

    In time if supply does not pick up or you can't manage, you might have to consider looking for something different. There is no shame in that as there is still a world wide recession happening and although I know it does not help you, there are many people looking for work.

    Try to take each day as it comes and not to worry too much about the future.

    Keep posting on here as there are many people who are kind and willing to listen.

    wicked4u2 and svchanner like this.
  5. Deirds

    Deirds Senior commenter

    Hi, svchanner.

    I think one thing you could do is sign up to more than one agency if you haven't already done so.

    Make a timetable for yourself. If you don't get a phone call have an alternative day schedule that starts at 9am.

    Include exercise, application form time (if you want a long-term job) and a little bit of planning (one or two lessons) if you get your ideal job.

    Longer term you may want to think about switching career. Look at what alternative careers you could do. The Prospects website has a career aptitude test. Identify some saleable skills you could acquire, eg MS Office, web design.... Do an hour a day.

    Futurelearn has some interesting courses which don't take too long.

    Supply should pick up after half-term.

    I assume being an NQT you might be quite young - I apologise for being ageist if I'm wrong. If you are young you might feel I'm being very negative in recommending thoughts about alternative careers. I think the reality of life on Supply can be pretty rough and now is a good time to start work on Plan B. If teaching works out for you, you will only have lost a few hours picking up new skills.

    If you're as old as I am you will already know that things don't always work out the way you planned them. There are lots of us about. The job market isn't as promising for us but I think we should still be working on Plan B.

    Good luck.
    Annadebb and svchanner like this.
  6. svca92

    svca92 New commenter

    Thank you Pepper5 for your kind and reassuring words! I am currently looking into tutoring now as a possible safety blanket for a little bit more income. It may or may not work, but at least I can say I've tried. I have been told by my agency that it should hopefully pick up after half term so my fingers are crossed.

    Thank you x
    pepper5 likes this.
  7. svca92

    svca92 New commenter

    Thank you for your help. I am only 23 and have just qualified so I'm hoping it does pick up soon.

    Much appreciated x
    pepper5 likes this.
  8. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    You are just starting out, but you must be a determined person since you have accomplished a lot in a short space of time.

    Private tutoring will provide you with extra money and don't forget that in addition to working through an agency you can contact schools directly. There is an thread about this if you look further down. Also take Deird's advice about gaining additional skills.
    svchanner likes this.
  9. Fraccy

    Fraccy New commenter

    Initially I signed up with a tutor directory, but got absolutely nowhere.

    I gained several tutees following various supply jobs. Satisfied parents recommended me to their friends. So, rather than advertising, you'll probably find that word of mouth works best! (There's a lot more about all this in the TES tutoring forum...)

    Regarding being qualified enough with other skills: with freelancing, it's not about the qualifications, but what you can demonstrably do, and being able to provide examples. If you have an interest or hobby, develop it!
    pepper5 and svchanner like this.

    PARTALOA New commenter

    I have been doing secondary supply for 2 years now. This is the quietest I have ever know. I am with 3 agencies and they all said it is unusually quiet. I have never known it to be so quiet. I teach in FE once a week in the evening also which used to be 4 nights a week but the price of the courses tripled so we don't have as many students. I do 3 personal tuitions a week and an after school club. These came form initial advert locally and word of mouth. However, I am worried that if I don't get any work soon I will have to look at something non teaching related. !
    pepper5 and svchanner like this.
  11. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter


    Thanks for posting about your situation since it might make people feel a bit better and know it is just not them being affected and that has been quiet for a lot of people. I too am thinking if it does not pick up soon I shall have to look for something non-teaching related. I do,however, think it will start tomget busier soon ; after all, school has only been in session for six weeks and we have just had half term.
    svchanner likes this.
  12. svca92

    svca92 New commenter

    That's what worries me to! Having to look into something non teaching related. That will be my very very last option though. x
    pepper5 likes this.
  13. Jolly_Roger1

    Jolly_Roger1 Star commenter

    If you have managed to get ten days so far this term, you are doing fantastically well compared to some, if not to most. I dream of getting ten days! I haven't had that much work in two years!

    Private tuition depends on the attitudes to education prevailing in the area in which you live and how many wannabee tutors are trying to jump on the bandwagon and undercutting the genuine variety.
    svchanner likes this.
  14. Findlotte

    Findlotte Established commenter

    Apply for Cover Supervisor positions in schools. Essentially you'll be the school supply teacher and will deliver random lessons each day.
    svchanner likes this.
  15. emmalcm1

    emmalcm1 Established commenter

    Like others have said, it's good to have something to fall back on...tutoring etc... I sell on ebay sometimes which is a good way to make a few quid while you've got the extra time on your hands.

    I've been doing 3 or 4 days for the last few weeks but because I've been doing supply for a while, I've had the chance to build up relationships with schools. You should find that schools ask you back if you make a good impression-the best advice I can give is to be smiley and friendly with the member of staff who organises supply staff. Agencies are definitely quiet for the first half term because of the simple fact that it takes a few weeks for the germs and stress to set in. It makes me feel like a bit of a vulture sometimes but often you are basically waiting for someone to be ill.

    It's never going to be easy doing supply as far as I can tell. I was in your position at this time in 2011 and I still haven't managed to get a permanent position as there is a shortage of jobs in my subject (I have done temp/ supply since). As a result, I'm currently looking for something else, which is not what I want to do but needs must. I wouldn't have been able to manage for the last few years if it wasn't for my husband having a contracted job.

    Good luck, I hope things work out for you one way or another!
    pepper5 and svchanner like this.
  16. Jolly_Roger1

    Jolly_Roger1 Star commenter

    I went down this road and found that a qualified teacher applying for a CS role is looked on with suspicion, by schools. Most of my applications were ignored; only two resulted in interviews. During these, the schools seemed to be concerned that, being an experienced teacher, I might 'act beyond the CS role' leading to difficult relationships between me and the 'real' teachers :confused:
    svchanner likes this.
  17. PizzoCalabro

    PizzoCalabro Established commenter

    I really do recommend approaching schools directly.
    I did this in the summer and have two direct schools, four days this week with one that now has now booked for all next week - much higher rate than agencies,
    And even better than the rate situation is the re-bookings are down to me, not the agency, or if they have fallen out with the agency, or if another agency has offered a lower rate etc.
    svchanner likes this.
  18. splinters

    splinters Established commenter

    Im curious how you guys get by if you are getting so little supply work. I would have to work a few days each week at scale just to cover my bills and living expenses. Do any of you who have been teaching a while claim unemployment benefit (i believe you can claim based on what you have earnt over the years) as you are technically unemployed. If you do, how do you deal with it when you do get a days work?
    svchanner likes this.
  19. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Certainly in my case I 'coped' only because my husband was earning.

    I have stated many a time on this forum it is incredibly difficult to use supply as a real means of income to cover bills. Extras, holidays, those unexpected bills yes.
    Trying to claim benefits and working erractically is fraught with difficulties.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2015
    svchanner likes this.
  20. pepper5

    pepper5 Star commenter

    Hi splinters

    Some of us have spouses who are in jobs or have businesses. Some others supplement supply with tutoring or other work.

    I tried to claim benefits a couplemof years ago, but it was complicated and For various reasons which I didn't fully understand said I was not eligible. I think it might have had something to do with my husband's income, but I am not sure. It had been a particularly slow period and I remember crying in the waiting room at the unemployment office.

    It still is tough for us, but there are others who are worse off. As !long as I am able to keep a roof over our heads and have food, everything else is a bonus.
    svchanner likes this.

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