Where would the education sector be without supply teachers?
A recent warning by the Irish Primary Principals Network – which said that pupils could end up being sent home due to a growing shortage of substitute teachers – provides something of an answer to that question.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc on teacher absence: many schools are finding it a struggle to stay open, with increasing numbers of teachers and support staff testing positive for Covid-19.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of survey respondents said it was more difficult than normal to hire supply staff to cover for staff absence, as per an October 2021 report from the Association of School and College Leaders.
Supply teachers are more important than ever right now – but not all of them are given the level of support and respect that they deserve. Covid or no Covid, it’s crucial that you support supply staff just as you do permanent teachers.
Here are a few things you can do to make their working lives easier and more fulfilling:
Assign them a school contact
In giving supply teachers a contact who will greet them and show them around the school, you’re immediately telling them you’re a school that cares about their contribution.
It might only seem like a fairly rudimentary thing to do, but it can make all the difference. The contact should try to catch up with the school teacher over the course of the day – during lunch, etc. – to see how they’re getting on, while other teachers should also be urged to check in with their temporary colleague.
To help supply staff feel like they’re being supported in lessons, you might want to ask a permanent teacher who has a free to carry out a walk-by of the classroom – this will help keep students on their toes and show them that poor behaviour won’t be tolerated.
Provide as much information as possible
For supply teachers, knowledge is power – something they might feel like they don’t have enough of in the classroom.
During gained time, assign a member of staff the task of coming up with a ‘supply teacher pack’ which documents all the crucial information such as lesson times, what different bells signify, and the behaviour policies. It’s a nice touch to include a list of staff with headshots to make it easier for support staff to put a name to a face.
Other essential information that must be documented in the pack includes pupils that require special attention or care.
Schedule an appraisal
Granted, this can only really apply to long-term supply teachers. But, all the same, it’s part of recognising that supply staff aren’t just there to make up the numbers – they also want the opportunity to grow professionally within their role.
By providing them with feedback, they can start to understand whether their approach with students is having the desired effect – and what areas they can improve on.
As much as anything else, it will enable them to be a more effective presence in the classroom – something that all supply teachers long for!
By ensuring you’re adequately supporting supply staff, you’re not only giving your pupils a more consistent education, you’re creating a more positive reputation outside the school which has benefits for recruitment.
If any of those great support staff were to decide to commit to a single school, yours will likely be top of their list.
If you’re struggling to get the supply staff you need, look no further than Eteach. Our first-class supply teaching service delivers quality candidates to schools across the UK. With an unrivalled reputation for quality and safety, we’ve helped thousands of schools overcome their short and long-term supply challenges.