I’ve always found it staggering to hear the number of issues, many of them ongoing, that schools have with regards to successful supply teaching.  It has to be said that a lot of these issues are agency related but effective supply teaching doesn’t have to be taxing.


Here are the 7 steps to successful supply:

Step 1: Remove the barriers to employment for supply teachers

It’s often hard for supply teachers to get work and for schools to know that firstly these teachers have the right skills, and secondly that they are available.  There needs to be an openness to remove these barriers and that’s also where step 2 comes in…


Step 2: Collaborate with supply teachers

It sounds simple and we all know that collaboration can be powerful and vital in any organisation but we don’t always do it.  Schools and teachers need to be able to collaborate and work together, helping to source the best supply teacher for the role. Aligned with this of course step 3…


Step 3: Keep the channels of communication open

Agencies are the middle men and let’s be honest their communication between supply teachers and schools isn’t always the best, that’s why sometimes Primary Schools get Secondary School teachers rather than the Key Stage 1 experienced person they were expecting.  Schools and supply teachers need to keep the direct channels of communication open between one another, to help manage each other’s expectations as well as to build relationships.  You’ve guessed it, that leads me to step 4.


Step 4: Ensure the supply teacher knows about the role

This sounds obvious I know but it’s an ongoing issue as per the above example which means that through no fault of the school or the supply teacher, they haven’t got and they are not, the right person for the role.  Not only is this frustrating for both parties but also demotivating for both who inevitably feel like they have been let down again.


Step 5: Give the supply teacher the information they need

If I had a pound for every time a supply teacher had told me they had arrived at a school, been shown to a classroom and left to get on with it!  Fair enough, there’s not always time for a guided tour but quickly putting together a document with helpful information (who to contact in an emergency, where the toilets are, where the staff room is), which can be used time and time again is very useful.


Step 6: Talk to the learners about supply teachers

We were all young once and can related to how much hassle supply teachers would get and the games learners would play to see how far they could push them!  Whilst I’m not saying all learners today are the same, there is definite value in having a quick discussion with them about the fact that there will be a supply teacher, a brief reason as to who, plus a bit about who they are.  It helps to give supply teachers and element of gravitas when they walk into the room on day one.


Step 7: Tell them you like them

We’re all keen to avoid the just a body in the classroom scenario when it comes to supply teachers and the impact that this has on learners.  So as and when an agency does get it right, and the supply teacher fits the role and the school, make the time to say thank you even if it’s on email rather than face-to-face.  Share with them that you like them and the school appreciates their help, and this of course takes us back to step 1, 2, 3…


The seven steps to successful supply centre around the school and the supply teacher working more directly together.  In my experience a lot of the issues stem from the agencies so if there’s an element of cutting them out, this can only be a positive thing.


– Peter Carpenter, CEO of TeacherIn