Supply teaching – a personal view

Rather annoyingly WordPress doesn’t let you embed videos into the post, I knocked this one together as described below. * horses Who, in their right mind would to do supply? I have spent this academic year ‘on supply’ and have loved it. For the previous year and a half I worked in a school in Special Measures. A victim of the cult of WWOD (What Would Ofsted Do), I had been broken. My sense of self as a teacher crushed under the boot of a dozen consultants, confused and befuddled by a dizzying array of ever changing policies and procedures, unable to get any momentum because of major half termly timetable changes. The cult never managed to rebuild me in its image, and as the summer started I realised I was going to have to stage an intervention and get myself out of its grasp. My dad had been diagnosed with dementia in New Zealand and I wanted to go and visit him, I was on a fixed term contract so simply had to decide not to apply for a full time job, rather than actually leave (I’m not sure I would have got a job there anyway). I decided to take a year out and go on supply. It was the best decision I could have made and has made me realise that I do want to stay in teaching, despite the drawbacks.

My first supply job was in a further ed college out in the countryside, as a support worker working with students with special needs. It was run partly on Steiner principles and included lots of craft based activity as well as horticulture and farming. I only agreed to work for one week as it was support work and not as well paid as teaching. I stayed for seven. I learnt how to turn a piece of wood on a pole laithe, how to make paper by hand, how to milk a cow (!) – it was like having occupational therapy but being paid for it. There were a few of us broken teachers on supply there, and in the beautiful English countryside we healed up. I found my confidence again, and was happy to give teaching another go when my agency offered me a three day a week long term post. It was great, a really well run, lovely place to work with excellent staff and really nice students. I went to New Zealand for 6 weeks, came back and went back there. I filled in the extra days with day to day work which is interesting – it’s mainly in special ed so a different set of challenges from mainstream supply. I like these challenges, but I won’t lie, I have also liked the lack of committment and the distance I have from the internal politics of each workplace. Everyone I have worked with has been helpful and friendly even when obviously rushed off their feet. I thank them for that.


There was a point, standing in the surf on another stunning NZ beach, when I thought about making this a lifestyle choice – supply teaching for most of the year, spending a month in Jan/Feb visting my extensive NZ family. Of course, I can’t afford to do that – although you might think supply is well paid, when you’re doing agency work it isn’t. And of course, those 3 months of desperately necessary  ‘holidays’ – are just 3 months of no pay. Not to mention the complete lack of any pension contributions. So I won’t be doing this long term. As we wend our way towards the end of the school year, the work has started drying up and I have realised that this was just a year out, a break from the misery of working in a school in SM. I feel rested and ready for action again, although obviously skint. I would recommend it to anyone who is feeling bruised and battered by teaching as a way of getting your mojo back – I’m looking forward again to getting stuck in and to being responsible. Let’s hope I feel the same this time next year!


* The ‘art’ bit * This video is a bit of an experiment with the trailers function on I Movie on the i pad. The music is from – where Moby lets indie film-makers and students use his music for free. I wanted to try this out too – you have to register and request permission to use it, but I think it would be a massively useful resource for Media students in particular looking for soundtrack music. Not sure it’s quite right for this, but it was knocked together in about an hour including getting the photos from my knackered old phone. Lots of educational potential.