My first tip for anybody thinking of leaving teaching is “don’t give up on teaching yet!” Supply teaching may be a solution.
Content on this page
- My Story about Supply Teaching
- Pros and Cons of Supply Teaching
- Average daily pay for Supply
- Do you need to go through an agency?
- Money worries?
- Comments and Tips about Supply Teaching
Doing supply gives you the opportunity to see a lot of different schools. If a job comes up in one then you may be at an advantage if you want to work at the school. Supply teaching also puts you in control by giving you the opportunity to apply for non-teaching jobs without having to give a term’s notice, which is often a reason why some teachers stay in a teaching job they hate.
If you’re using the experience to find your perfect school, then treat every day like an interview! Don’t return to schools you don’t like and make yourself known in those you do. And always have a few suitable standby lessons up your sleeve.— Lucy A Giles?♀️ (@lucyagiles) August 1, 2019
A friend of mine handed in her notice at a school I worked at on the first day back in September. She left at Christmas and then started supply. She said,
“I have experienced a couple that were worse, but the vast majority are a definite improvement.”
It gave her the opportunity to find a good school and she recently commented,
“I’m very happy with my role at the moment and have no plans to move.”
My Story about Supply Teaching
Unlike many other people, I took a break from teaching of over a year before doing any supply teaching. That made it a little more difficult because there were lots of checks that had to be done before I could teach, in addition to the Enhanced DBS. I had to get references from several people in schools I had taught in and some of those had since left which meant I was doing a lot of chasing after people.
Eventually, I was cleared for teaching and was able to do supply work in both primary schools and secondary schools. The rate I was on was £130 per day, which I negotiated due to my experience. Do not believe any advertisements from supply agencies offering “up to £200 per day“. It worked for me because I was already doing other part-time work for one company two days per week and so I had a guaranteed income for that job. I had another job running my own business and, if I didn’t get enough work in, the supply teaching was an additional source to supplement my income.
Many people going into supply teaching are relieved at the lack of planning and marking. In secondary, I was able to leave at the end of the school day, shortly after 3:00pm in some schools, without having to do any marking. However, I discovered that in primary schools there is an expectation that all marking is completed by the end of the day, which was 4:30pm in most schools I did supply in. I observed some of the most ridiculous marking policies, involving 3 or more different pen colours, which made that extremely difficult to achieve.
In my experience, some schools were good and some were awful. But I was in control… if I didn’t want to go back, I didn’t have to. The worst thing was that I couldn’t guarantee that I’d have work. Some days I didn’t get a call.
Nevertheless, Monday 6th March 2017 was the day I vowed never to set foot in a school again after being sent on supply to the worst school that I have ever been to, an Academy based in South Staffordshire. In the last lesson, I called for support as some pupils were ripping pages from text books. One member of staff entered the classroom to take a lad to detention. The lad refused and told them to f*** off. Again, I asked them for support. Shortly afterwards, a Deputy Principal entered the classroom and even she had difficulty calming the class down.
Later, another person entered the classroom with a visitor. I thought he was there to speak to the class and maybe take someone away. He had a smug grin on his face as they stood for him. He didn’t say a word; he merely smiled at the visitor and then left. His only reason for being there appeared to be to show off to the visitor how he could get the class to stand as he entered the room. He was the Principal.
My Pros and Cons of Supply Teaching
- No marking to take home with you
- No lengthy lesson plans to complete
- No Staff Meetings/Parent Meetings
- You are in control; you don’t have to stay at a “bad school”
- Flexibility to do other things during the days you are not needed
- You can save money by taking holidays in term time
- You get to see a lot of different schools*
- You don’t earn during the holidays
- There may be days when you are not required
- If you turn work down, you may be offered less work in future
- You don’t get to know the pupils
- Poor behaviour from some pupils
- It can be lonely; you may be ignored in the staff room!
- Some teachers can be very rude towards supply teachers
- Some schools are crafty and will take supply staff on longer contracts, expecting them to plan and mark like a full-time teacher, but without the benefits such as pension, etc.
Other people’s Pros and Cons of Supply Teaching
“Have only been supply since May having left my previous job of 16yrs but here’s what I’ve found.
1) work has dropped off now that y11 and 13s have left so jobs not guaranteed. You have to budget your money.
2) quite a few schools will only pay cover supervisor rate if daily cover which is less money.
3) One school seems to like to employ either 10-3.30 or 9-2.30 thereby claiming its not a full day and paying an hourly rate instead – quite a bit less.
The staff I’ve covered tend to be the ones with bottom sets and behaviour issues (no surprises why they’re off).
Some lovely welcoming schools and staff.
Variety – you don’t get bored teaching same thing.
If you really dislike the place you don’t have to go back.
Planning and marking are not an issue on daily supply so no workload issues.
You don’t have to be scrutinised to an inch of your life.
I HAVE MY LIFE BACK -TIME WITH MY FAMILY AND FEEL HAPPIER AND HEALTHIER. My husband said, “I finally have my wife back!””
“Lack of job security, no sick pay, no teachers pension and never knowing what you will be turning up to are the downsides. Positives are if you do have any bad experiences you don’t have to go back, no notice period, much lower workload, holiday when you like.“
“I loved: the work-life balance, no lesson obs, no book looks, no red tape, very limited planning, flexibility in my personal life, weekends/evenings to myself
I disliked: Not being able to build the lasting relationships with children, On agency work I ALWAYS had break duties, Not knowing where anything was, Poor planning left for me to teach, No PPA, Paying for my own CPD
. Not being able to build the lasting relationships with children
.On agency work I ALWAYS had break duties
.Not knowing where anything was
.Poor planning left for me to teach
. No PPA
. Paying for my own CPD”
“I did supply for about 18 months after taking voluntary redundancy. Like you say there are pros and cons. For me, the biggest pro was that it allowed me some time to think about my options and rebuild my confidence that had been torn to shreds in my previous school. The biggest con, of course is the money and lack of security.
You go in, do the job and come away. No meetings, parents’ eves, paperwork, marking, office politics…
You are always saving the day so everyone loves you and is grateful for you being there.
If you make a good impression then schools tend to ask for you back by name which can both be a great boost to your confidence and give you some more guaranteed work. I found I had about 4 schools that continuously requested my by name which was good cos then I knew my way round and knew a lot of the staff and pupils.
No commitment. If you don’t like a school you only have to stick it out for a day!
Money wasn’t great when I was doing it.
Kids always are around for supply.
No pay at all in the holidays and September and July are always a bit rubbish too.
No stable income.
You have to teach all sorts of different subjects (which can actually sometimes be a pro).“
What is the average daily pay for supply?
“I left my permanent job after 6 years about 2 years ago and have been on supply ever since. I’ve been really lucky to get a couple of longish term positions in lovely schools. I get just over £600 a month which makes a big dent in our bills so definitely worth applying. Good luck, the feeling of leaving is amazing !! I was getting £150 a day at M5 so don’t feel you have to accept much less! When I began I was foolishly working for £100-110 and not even asking for more!“
“I’ve been doing supply on and off for the last 14 years. When starting with an agency, negotiate a high daily rate as it will never go up, I’m still on £130/day. The current demand is so high that you’ve got some bargaining power. Also, if you go long term, negotiate to get your holidays paid for. And NEVER accept any prepping and marking unless they give you time off to do it in school, or pay you extra to take it home. Otherwise you might as well get a part time contract at a school. Good luck!“
“When I first registered for supply it took a while for work to come in. Since I actually got started, and demonstrated to agencies that I do the job well, I have never not been busy.
I started out underpricing myself, being willing to work for £130 a day. As I’ve got busier, I’ve increased the rate that I expect from agencies quite significantly.”
“depends on agency, area and experience. Rates vary from £100 to £200 a day roughly.”
Do you need to go through an agency?
“I worked for an agency but also did supply for a school I had worked at before, it was independent which I guess may have made a difference. We split the difference between what I would have got gross from an agency and what they would have had to pay an agency. We were both quids in.”
“You can work directly with schools but good luck getting one to do it. The response I had was agencies do all the leg work that’s why we use them.“
“Taxes, insurance etc is easier through a supply company. Easier to get jobs as well.”
Money worries? How do you manage when not being paid during half terms/holidays?
“I have an evening job at a call centre a few days a week, I see it as the time I would have spent planning (but with out the stress) it’s on a rolling shift pattern and it supplements my supply. It’s working for me and I’m enjoying my life at the moment.”
“I work 3-4 days supply and save the money I need to cover bills over holiday time. I ask the agency to place me close to home so that I am not paying out on fuel.”
“I tutored when I did supply to help. For this half term I would look local dog walking or babysitting home help job? And look for a temp office job? Try a big employment agency?”
“I worked in a preschool over the summer holidays. I just sent an email round to a few and this one happened to need bank staff. I got as many hours as I wanted each week. It still wasn’t amazing money but it was better than nothing. You just usually need to do your own invoices etc x“
“I have supplied in the past and worked at holiday clubs in breaks. You do end up with tax in a muddle but will get a refund if owed any.”
“I’m doing a combination of supply and tutoring. Started in September and it is so much better! Vary rarely bring work home and much less stressful. I work in secondary and have been deliberately choosy about schools. I’d definitely give it a go if you’ve had enough. I am much happier and stressed!”
“I don’t get work every day and sometimes get cancelled.
I wouldn’t be able to cope without my second and third income.
I take notes for disabled university students (Academic Note Taker)
I also do some PPA cover in my subject (French) as well as some NHS interpreting.
What I’m saying is so long as you have something else to fall back in like the tutoring you may be ok. Otherwise you’ll have to take a long-term supply position, and the workload will stay the same.”
“I used to supply and like one of the other ladies had a second job. Mine was in a pub which meant I worked more there in the holidays this meaning I had enough to pay the mortgage. You won’t be paid when you don’t work as a supply so you do need to supplement your income.”
Comments about Supply Teaching
I did supply for five years and loved it:
“I did supply for five years and loved it. I didn’t mind the early calls. I used to say which days I was available – sometimes work was pre-booked other times it was on the day.”
I have enjoyed supply:
“I have enjoyed supply. It is more flexible and the pay worked for me. I had 7 years experience and was working 4 days a week and as supply I work between 4 and 5 days. I have found it helpful in gaining lots of time for myself definitely, and completely free weekends! I did take on a longer term teaching role as supply for 2 days, which helped too as it’s nice having some consistency.”
I love day to day work:
“I love day to day work and don’t do any other. Last week knew a week in advance where I was going. Some days I hear in the morning, so I get up and get ready to hear. I leave at 3pm some days, don’t do meetings or parents etc.
Other people do long term supply and work terms and half term somewhere and cover every aspect of teaching. They get paid a bit more.”
It’s nice to see different schools:
“I’ve moved into supply since April and so far it has been an absolute pleasant experience. It’s nice to go in and see different schools and not have the stress when I come home! Supply has been a god send for my mental health. Still looking to escape teaching but for now I am more than happy with supply!”
I never have “the fear” on a Sunday night:
“I’m supply teaching this year. I enjoy it a lot. I never have “the fear” on a Sunday night. I don’t have to worry about being able to take time off. However, it’s less money and there have been a few times I have had no work. Overall, I love it though. And no paperwork, staff meetings, dealing with parents etc.”
Be aware of being ripped off by agencies:
“I jumped ship at Christmas and have been on supply since while I look for something that doesn’t involve working in schools. Pros are that it is flexible and interesting to get an insight into different schools. Cons are the variation in daily pay and you have to plan carefully to cover holiday season. One of my agencies gets very little work for me but releases holiday pay if I haven’t worked for a couple of weeks. The other one rings almost every day! Also be very wary of being ripped off by agencies. I found my daily rate was £20 less than another member of supply despite same agency and being more experienced.
If you’re still working in schools, ask supply staff there for recommendations for agencies to approach.”
Be aware of long-term contracts:
“My experience was that I enjoyed ‘daily supply’, but the assignments were patchy. To guarantee work, I was forced to take long-term contracts, involving ALL if the responsibilities, pressures and stresses if a permanent post, but without the benefit of holiday pay it pension contributions – at the end of my final supply year, I’d taken home 17K: not worth the long hours and stress at all!”
If you are at breaking point, it does allow you to step back and enjoy teaching again:
“Such I have been doing supply since January. Beware – some agencies promise amazing jobs that after you have signed up (often no-where near where you live) it turns out the job didn’t exist. Supply agencies want lots of teachers on their books – so put out random/generic jobs. Don’t get your hopes up. However, other agencies can get you week long posts. which is nice. I still do a bit of planning and marking, but if the school is not for you – it doesn’t matter as it doesn’t effect you. I like listening to unhappy staff in the staffroom and then walking out the door at 3.30pm. However the pay isn’t great and I miss being part of a team and building relationships with students. Pro’s and con’s – but if you are at breaking point like I was, it does allow you to step back and enjoy teaching again.”
“The biggest pro is what in careers guidance is called ‘planned happenstance’! By visiting lots of different schools and networking, meeting different people you are putting yourself out there and “planning” for “chance” meetings and opportunities”
Talk to other supply teachers in your area:
“Primary supply was great 10 years ago. I gave up full time in 2006 and my first 4 years supplying were absolutely fab – I got known at half a dozen nice schools with plenty of work, covered classes regularly where ASTs were out at other schools once a week, enjoyed all the fun bits of teaching without the stress and got paid an hourly rate that was comparable with my UPS2 pay grade. Then my council sold the council-run agency to a private company -which they themselves set up to outsource everyone who worked on a casual basis for the council. We got a month to decide whether to sign up to the new ts and cs or leave. The unions weren’t interested as supply teachers haven’t signed a contract and the council were therefore not in breach of contract. Our pay rate was cut (mine went down by £7.50 an hour), our automatic pension contributions stopped and our right to free CPD disappeared. And to add insult to injury, after a year the new company proudly announced to everyone that they had made £20,000 profit!! With whose money…?! Not long after that, the work began to dry up too… partly as this all coincided with the abolishing of the AST scheme, a big reduction in school-time CPD and the increasing bad-practice habit of using HLTAs to cover classes. I was more fortunate than some as I had a couple of great schools who kept giving me work because they valued my experience, but after a couple more years I’d had enough and I jumped ship to a completely different job. I’m now working in heritage and earning less, but I am so much happier. I’m fortunate that my other half is well paid so I could afford the pay cut, but with the dwindling amount of supply work available, the teaching was paying me less and less each year anyway. I would not presume to advise, but if you decide to go for supply then talk to other supply teachers in your area first and ask them about the pros and cons.”
Give it a try and see if it is for you:
“I’ve been supply since April last year! I love supply, though it’s not permanent for me as still want to leave education. It has its benefits such as having evenings and weekends back and not having to take work home but each wage is different. Best advice is to give it a try and see if it is for you“
I hated supply teaching:
“Obviously it’s better from the point of view of hours, but I hated supply teaching. I found zero job satisfaction in teaching children I did not know. Behaviour was ok when I could secure EY and KS1 work but I found KS2 were generally hellish days. And working in a school where you don’t know anyone is a pretty soulless situation. The agency I was with (Vibe) sent me all over London m/Hertfordshire with expensive travel and long journeys. And the pay was abysmal. I worked out my day rate did not even add up to M1. They told me my 20 years of experience were irrelevant to daily supply. It’s the only time I have truly felt exploited.“
I didn’t like supply:
“I didn’t like supply personally, the behaviour was good, but I didn’t like the uncertainty of knowing what I was doing every day.”
I did supply for a year but it wasn’t for me:
“I did supply for a year but it wasn’t for me. Too inconsistent financially and I’m not keen on teaching kids I don’t know. I went back to full time teaching in a special needs school and love it 😊”
It can be very demoralising:
“I did day to day supply teaching for a few months after leaving teaching. But would just say to those who are resigning from their teaching job be very cautious about resigning from a post and then going into supply. It can be very demoralising, other staff members are not always very kind or helpful to supply and classroom management is a bit more difficult. If you are already a bit fragile and conflicted about your future after resigning, supply can be quite damaging emotionally and make you feel like a pretty rubbish teacher. It was different when I got a six week supply contract back at my old school, as I didn’t have to ‘prove myself’ however day to day was pretty tough. If you need money to get by before a new job is found then think about joining a regular job agency.”
If you’re thinking of leaving teaching then the Thinking of Leaving Teaching Group might be a good place to get some ideas. It is a safe place for people to ask for help and advice, discuss topics and share opinions about jobs you can do if you leave teaching.