How to welcome a supply teacher to your school
(a quick reference)
- Give your recruitment agency a full brief
- Prepare a welcome pack
- Be a good host
- Have a verbal briefing in the morning
- Create a friendly workplace
- Be present
How to welcome a supply teacher to your school
(a quick reference)
This article was originally published on key.co.com. We’ve put it here too because more supply teachers will see it and we hope they’ll send us their feedback. We need your help to keep the guide as useful and relevant for schools as possible. If there’s anything you want us to add or change, please email or tweet us.
When a teacher in your school is absent, you need to find a reliable, capable supply teacher who can hit the ground running, pick up where the class teacher left off and ensure your pupils have the best learning experience possible.
If someone is heading off on maternity/paternity leave or for a training course, you have plenty of time to arrange cover in advance. The class teacher can prepare some lessons and leave information for – and maybe even meet with – their replacement.
Most of the time, things really aren’t that simple though, are they?
When an emergency or sudden sickness means a teacher is absent with little warning, you need to find cover and find it fast. A quick call to your supply agency saves the day when they confirm they’ve found someone who’s available and on their way. You want to ensure the teacher visiting your school has all the tools and information they need to do their job, but usually you’re simply too busy to spend ages preparing for their arrival.
We’ve gathered insight from over 1,400 supply teacher employees who want to help you out. In this guide, they share some of the things that you can prepare now so that when the sudden need for class cover arrives, you’re armed and ready with the tools your supply teacher will need to just get on with the teaching.
Supply teachers are adaptable and capable, often with many years of teaching experience under their belts. But even so – ‘the more time to prepare for a job beforehand the better,’ as one supply teacher put it to us. Another added, ‘if I’m contacted the day before, let me know exactly what I will be teaching so I can spend time researching the work.’ The more you allow them to prepare and the less jittery they’re left feeling about unknown details, the better a job they can do.
‘In practice I have hardly ever been told in advance what I will be expected to teach even when I have been booked a day or two in advance. At the worst I have been expected to teach lessons outside my specialisms without any cover materials provided at all.’ – David Walton, Supply teacher
To help you convey all the relevant information quickly and consistently – even when you’re rushed off your feet – create a Pre-Assignment Brief template, ready to complete before each booking. The document should list all of the info you need to give each supply teacher in advance of an assignment at your school.
Here are some ideas for headings to include:
Some of the info will be standard for any booking, so you can have that pre-populated. The rest of it can be completed in stage 2 of this guide – ‘when you need a supply teacher’.
Supply teachers visit lots of schools – all with different class and break timings, rules and expectations. So help them out! Find a folder and fill it with all the useful info a supply teacher would need to fit into your school. Prepare it now, so it’s ready to grab when time is tight.
‘Sometimes we have travelled for an hour in solid traffic, had parking problems and feel anxious about a late call received’. – supply teacher
Essential information to include:
‘I am sure that I am not alone in finding managing behaviour the toughest aspect of this job, especially and increasingly, in upper KS2.’ – Clare Willis, supply teacher.
Yes, it gets its own section – it’s an important one. If your staff all have their own mugs, make sure there are some spare mugs for supply teachers. You should also have tea/coffee/sugar/milk that they can use to make themselves a drink, separate from any staffroom kitty.
‘Not knowing which mug to use for tea can be stressful.’ – supply teacher
Okay, don’t stress. First, find your Pre-Assignment Brief template and complete it. Then you can either send the whole document to your agency and ask them to pass it onto the teacher, or give the info verbally when you’re speaking to the recruiter. If there are any last minute changes after you do this, try your best to let the teacher know.
Personalise your Welcome Pack by adding the following, where relevant:
When your supply teacher arrives at school, welcome them in. Or if you can’t do it yourself, ask another member of staff to take responsibility for doing so. Greet them with a smile, introduce yourself and say how pleased you are to see them.
‘Give them a minute to catch their breath when they arrive. Show them where the toilets are and where they can leave their things. Sometimes you don’t even know what you are teaching and so the day goes on and at break you have to try to find out where the loos are etc.’ – supply teacher
Give them a quick tour of the school, extend an invite to the staffroom at break times, and if there’s time they may even appreciate a quick coffee before teaching starts. Speaking of coffee, make sure to show them what mug and hot drinks supplies they can use – hopefully you prepared this in stage 1. Point out any facilities they have access to, such as the fridge and microwave.
Don’t forget to introduce them to their TA, the teacher next door and the Head of Department, as well as anyone else you bump into.
Talk them through what they’ll be doing that day, making sure to outline your expectations clearly. Give them the opportunity to ask any questions and take the time to answer them fully. Let them know how to get in touch with you if they need you throughout the day, or who the best person is to go to with any difficulties. If the class teacher is there to hand over, encourage them to introduce the supply teacher to the class. Supply teacher, Alastair Agnew, said that words such as ‘I expect to hear that you have worked hard and been good when I return.’ would be really appreciated too.
‘We really want to do a good job and when we feel like part of the team and are supported it makes all the difference.’ – Kevin King, supply teacher
Another supply teacher – David Walton, told us he finds the ‘the poor reception given by permanent staff ‘ the hardest thing. He said he often feels ‘like the invisible man’.
Encourage your staff to be friendly and welcoming towards supply teachers, even if they’re only with you for a day or two. Ask them to look out for new faces in the staffroom and to make a point of saying hi. Maybe share some info about their previous teaching experience, to help get conversations started.
‘It is difficult to walk into a staff room full of friends with no introduction and no one knowing who you are.’ – supply teacher
Try to find time for a chat with them yourself. Why not ask them about other schools they’ve visited and see what you can learn from them?
‘I have been in a few schools where headteachers have not acknowledged me at all, whilst standing beside me, talking to other members of staff. Being treated in that way can really affect one’s view of the school, and the importance the entire institution places on respect.’ – Clare Willis, supply teacher
Be available or ensure someone else will be available in case any questions come up or they need support.
When the bell rings and the children head off home, check in with your supply teacher. Ask if they found everything they needed. This is especially important if the contract is longer. If they are coming back tomorrow, ask them if they have any questions to help them the next day. If this is their final day with you, find out where they have left any marking or feedback for the regular teacher.
‘Someone to say goodbye and thanks for coming at the end of the day is a massive boost’ – supply teacher
Likewise, if you have any constructive feedback for your supply teacher, pass it on. Now is your opportunity to develop a good working relationship – if they did a good job, let them know you appreciate their help and that they would be welcome back. And don’t forget to sign their timesheet if they have one – they’ll need it to get paid.
‘It would be great if all client schools could receive and action your document,’ – Neil Hodder, a supply teacher with 14 years’ experience
‘Your article was really helpful and hit the nail on the head exactly – thanks for doing such a good job.’ – Kevin King, supply teacher
‘I wish all schools will read your guide. Simply written and very much to the point with important information for the schools not to miss….especially the coffee and parking points!’ – Funke Williams, supply teacher
Supply teacher, Clare Willis said the guide ‘would undoubtedly help improve the daily life of supply teachers.’
Thank you for informing me about this useful guide. Most schools I have experienced could make better use of supply staff if they followed its guidance.’ – David Walton, supply teacher
‘I absolutely love the list of ideas to help supply teachers. Every single one is very helpful and important. Especially from a safeguarding perspective.’ – @busyteacher247 via Twitter