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The Best of Both Worlds – Supply Versus Permanent

15/11/16

There are positives and negatives to any job and in this blog, Ray tells us why he personally favours supply work over a permanent role.

I have written before about my enjoyment of being a supply teacher, it gives me total freedom and a way to experience different schools. Of course there are draw backs such as not being able to help students through their exams and not keeping your subject skill current but I have found that by taking on regular ‘subject specific’ cover I am able to do both.

I always remember a supply teacher saying to me that when offered a long term or permanent role he would always decline saying ‘if I accept, you will constantly observe me and as a result of the observation apply all types of teacher training but as a supply teacher you are happy with my performance. So, thank you but no thanks’. I tend to agree with this up to a point and it really depends on the school, in his experience of working for ‘challenging’ schools who either require improvement or where in special measures there would be a great deal of constant observation and training. For those who have been through a two year improvement plan that is put in place when a school is in special measures will understand how much work and stress is involved; indeed any observation is stressful, mainly because within trying to tick the 150+boxes you will only be able to hit a third of them, which is why in training they inform you of their focus area. Stress is defined as ‘events which are outside of our control’ and these come in many guises, it might be an OFSTED visit or a student or students are having an ‘off day’ or even the new marking criteria (see my next blog) which gives rise to it.

I have had enormous success with the students in raising their self-confidence, supporting many through difficult times and more importantly (for the school) guiding them on to exam successes. During my time as a permanent full time employee, I have encountered various elements of internal politics and disgruntled members of leadership staff and these factors also have a ‘knock on effect’ on staff morale. In any industry there can be staff not ‘pulling their weight’ or playing ‘the blame game’ but to endure this on top of having to achieve positive results for every student, every lesson it can be unfair and frustrating. Do you need the added stress of in fighting? I decided not. During a training session, teaching was described as like ‘herding cats’, a difficult task but as a cat owner you get to know what works and what doesn’t for each individual cat.

So here is what I do now, I work as a regular supply teacher and enjoy the variety of subjects I teach, no planning and no marking but I keep ‘one eye open’ for short term opportunities to teach my subject a period of three months to six months, which is ideal for me. It is long enough to re-establish teaching my subject, it is enough time to get to know the students and to help them achieve and progress with each lesson; this does involve a minimal amount of planning, definitely regular marking and maybe a few parent evenings but in a much more ‘stress free’ way. The joy of doing this is that I am not subjected to observations or internal politics, or the ties of having a Tutor /Form and ironically I am not usually called on to ‘cover’ other subjects. PPA’s are honoured and you are expected to do ‘duties’ which I enjoy because I find that you really get to know students during conversations at break time.

My CV has an unbroken history of teaching experience between several schools and my credibility as an Art teacher is intact, in fact it has been enhanced by the range of schools that I have taught at. I have been able to help students reach their potential in their exams and have proved that I am up to date with the new marking criteria but apart from this, I have ‘sharpened’ my pastoral skills during general supply and it has opened up other avenues to explore within my subject. The freedom to work the days I wish to means that I am able to take on other art projects and enjoy a real work life balance.

I know that this piecemeal way of working is not for everyone and some will want the security of knowing that they are at the same school each year and that their holidays are paid; for me I am able to put money away for the holidays with no loss to income and going from school to school is a bit of an adventure.

As long as you do a good job then you will be asked back and with the amount of schools available through Protocol there is always work to be had. I have worked for Protocol for over three years and even though I have worked for other agencies (reluctantly when a job has been available only via them) but I would always put them at the top. Protocol are number 1 in my book.


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