Hope’s Supply Teacher FAQs

Hot on the heels of our NQT Employment Day we spoke to Randstad Education, CER and Hays to answer some of the top FAQs from our NQTs and to gather some top tips to help you flourish on supply.

What should I expect when signing up to a teaching supply agency?

The registration process might vary but will typically involve

  • Initial registration – provided the core/basic information they may also ask you to submit a CV
  • Qualifications verification
  • Right to Work Check – ID checks and verifying your right to work in the UK
  • References – you’ll be asked to provide details of 2 or 3 referees (typically your teacher training provider and your school placement/practice provider)
  • Enhanced DBS check
  • A personal risk assessment – your opportunity to disclose a disability or medical condition

At the moment most agencies are able to complete the full registration process virtually and will complete their initial registration interview online via video software like Zoom or Teams.

Top Tips: 

  • Register for the DBS update service (£13 per year)
  • Have an editable version of your CV (Word) to give to agencies as they’ll usually anonymise all CVs before sending them to a school

What does the initial registration interview involve?

Again this may vary depending on the agency but usually involves

  • Verifying your documentation (Right to Work check, photo ID etc)
  • A discussion on your skills and experience; delving into your CV so they can build a profile to share with schools. Agencies described this as informal and relaxed but you should be prepared for this to feel like an interview and prepare for some common interview questions (e.g safeguarding, your teaching style, behaviour techniques, strengths/weaknesses)
  • The agency providing you with details on their processes and systems; how will you be contacted, what training you’ll need to complete, which schools they work with etc
  • A chance for you to ask questions

Most agencies will provide full details of what to expect during this discussion and what documents you need to have to hand so be sure to carefully read everything they send you ahead of your interview/registration chat so you can be fully prepared.

Top Tips: 

  • Carefully read everything the agency sends you and have all supporting documents to hand
  • Note down any questions you’d like to ask ahead of your registration interview
  • Have a pad and pen handy so you can take notes throughout the discussion

Will it cost me to sign up to an agency?

No, in fact it’s illegal for an agency to charge candidates any money to register or for their recruitment services.

They may however ask you to cover some costs, if they do pass costs on to you this should be clearly explained.

Examples;

Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service Check (DBS) 

If the DBS you gained at the beginning of your university course is no longer valid and you are not registered with the update service agencies will need to process a new one for you and they will usually ask you to cover this cost. Currently it costs £40 to process this and agencies may also add an administration fee.  Some agencies will refund you this cost once you’re regularly working for them.

The registration subscription to the update service is £13 each year so it is worth registering with the update service. Registering with the update service means that if you’re registering with more than one agency you won’t need to pay for separate DBS checks and you’ll always have an up to date Enhanced DBS.

Training/CPD

Agencies may ask you to complete compulsory or mandatory training (e.g. safeguarding), as this is mandatory and you are not able to work for them without it this should be provided free of charge. Non-compulsory or optional training they offer may incur a charge.

Some agencies provide accredited training free of charge e.g. Team Teach, Paediatric First Aid so working for an agency can offer you some great benefits.

PAYE/Umbrella companies

Some agencies may utilise the services of an ‘umbrella company’ for payroll. It should be made clear to you in writing who your employer is (the agency or the umbrella company) and if any deductions, including ‘charges’, are going to be made to your pay these should be made clear in advance of you carrying out work. Some agencies will give you the option/choice of whether you want to work through an umbrella company in return for employee perks/benefits e.g. reward scheme, discounts etc so take the time to work out which option suits you best if they do offer the choice.

If you plan to work in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you would also need to register with the appropriate teaching register and there are additional costs involved with that;

Wales –  Education Workforce Council (EWC) 

Northern Ireland – General Teaching Council (GTCNI)

Scotland – General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTC Scotland)

Know your rights – it’s worth being aware of your legal rights; if you’re not sure ask your agency about PAYE, holiday pay, sick pay, maternity rights, Agency Worker Regulations etc – you should be provided with a ‘key information document’ that makes your rights clear.

Top tips:

  • Ask if anything’s unclear
  • Make the most of access to free accredited training if it’s available to you

Can I/should I sign up to more than one agency?

Yes, agencies will work for different schools and cover different areas so it is advisable to register with more than one agency but we’d recommend being sensible about how many you register with. 

Don’t be afraid to do your research… if you have a specific location or specific schools you’d like to work in phone the school reception, explain you’re an NQT looking for work and ask which agency they use then register with that specific agency.

Registering with 2 agencies is realistic/advisable (up to 3/4 if there’s a specific reason e.g. location or specific specialism). Registering with too many can have knock on effects…you might find you’re contacted by each agency on the same morning with multiple offers of work which can be tricky to manage and each will ask your placement provider for a reference (so if you’re registered with 12 agencies the Head Teacher will get 12 different reference requests for you…not our recommended approach for making a lasting impression with a Head Teacher!)

If you are registered with more than one agency don’t forget to keep everyone informed of your availability e.g if you do get offered a long-term contract with one agency it’s good practice to let the other agency know you’re no longer available for work.

Top tips:

  • Be sensible about how many agencies you register with (2 is realistic)
  • Do your research and register with the right agency for you
  • Communicate your availability with the agencies you’re working with

What tips can you give to help me thrive on supply?

If it’s your first day at that particular school try to be as prepared as possible. Think about how you’re going to get there and give yourself plenty of travel time. Where possible try to arrive early as this will give you time to get settled before pupils start arriving at school.

Don’t forget the essentials

  • DBS check – you might be asked to show this before you can enter the premises so take it with you
  • ID – carry photographic identification with you, again some schools won’t let you into the classroom before they’ve verified your ID
  • Covid essentials; face covering, hand sanitiser, your own water bottle, packed lunch. If a school requires you to wear PPE this will be provided but it’s handy to have your own (if you have a medical condition that requires you to wear additional PPE e.g. a visor make sure your agency is aware of this)
  • Teaching ‘bag of tricks’ some icebreakers, work activities/fillers, behaviour charts (if age appropriate)
  • A bag/rucksack to carry everything you need – this also means you have somewhere safe to store your mobile phone during lessons (don’t forget no mobile phones in lessons so turn it off or silence it)

If you’re not fully briefed on that school’s procedure and protocols prior to arrival, or upon arrival, be sure to ask; what are their fire procedures? Who is the safeguarding lead? What’s the school’s behaviour policy – how should you deal with disruptive behaviour? What’s the Covid policy – what should you do if you or a pupil in your class displays symptoms? 

Where possible your agency or a school will prep you on all of this but if it’s a very last minute request for cover it could be a quick conversation as you head to the classroom for the day. 

Look confident (even if you don’t feel it) as pupils will pick up on your body language and you can set the tone for the day ahead. Schools want you to have a good day and to be a success on supply. Introduce yourself clearly to the class and set out your expectations of them (should they raise their hand to ask a question? What will you be covering today?).

Be on the ball, we probably all remember having supply teachers when we were at school…don’t let anyone think you’re a push over!

Top tips:

  • Have a supply ‘bag of tricks’ – some ready to go activities
  • Note down any questions you have – better to ask & then know than to guess
  • ‘Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do and, at some point, you will’ – Venus Williams

What should I wear on supply?

We’d recommend professional or business casual attire – a shirt or smart top and smart trousers/skirt and practical shoes (you might be on your feet for long periods). If you’re unsure err on the side of caution and go smarter. 

We would advise against wearing trainers or jeans unless expressly accepted at the school or appropriate for your role e.g. for a PE teacher trainers or sports kit would be required and SEN schools may have a more relaxed dress code – if there are specific requirements your agency should advise you at the time of booking you in to work.

Top tips:

  • If in doubt go smarter rather than more casual

If you’re in doubt on anything don’t be afraid to chat to your recruitment agent. I doubt there’s a question you can ask that hasn’t been asked before and there’s no detail too minor. They want you to succeed on supply, in fact their job depends on it, so work with them and ask if you need their support. It should feel like a partnership… you working for them and them working with you, if it doesn’t feel that way maybe it’s time to try a different agency!

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