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Working as a supply teacher

Working as a supply teacherIf you want to teach but a permanent job isn't for you, supply teaching could offer the flexibility you need.

Why be a supply teacher?

Supply teaching has plenty of challenges, from long travel times to hard-to-control classes. But there are lots of benefits, too:

  • Your work will be flexible, allowing you to take days off and holidays when you want to (as long as you can afford it!)
  • You'll spend more of your time teaching and less on admin and meetings.
  • You'll work in a much greater variety of schools, improving your teaching skills.
  • If you want to go permanent, you'll be able to get an idea of what a school or area is like before you apply.
  • You can work part-time and pursue other interests, such as study or another career. For example, you could combine being an artist with art teaching.


You'll need the same qualifications as any other teacher: a degree and Qualified Teacher Status, from either a teaching degree or postgraduate training. Find out more about getting into teaching. You'll also need to be CRB checked, but your agency should arrange this for you.

It might also help to have a full driving licence, as otherwise you'll need to arrange public transport or only work in schools near to where you live.

LEA pools

In some areas, you can register with your Local Education Authority's pool of supply teachers. This means that you are employed by the LEA, which gives you similar employment rights to permanent teachers, such as access to the Teachers’ Pension Scheme.


Agencies link up schools who need teachers with teachers who need work. Signing up with one will involve a face-to-face meeting, which you should treat like a job interview. You'll also need to tell the agency what your subjects are and when you’re available.

You can sign up for more than one agency, but you need to balance the chance to find more jobs with the hassle of updating them about your availability and other admin tasks. Some agencies might offer incentives to sign up exclusively with them, such as guaranteed work.

Getting work

Signing up for an agency doesn't guarantee that you'll get work. You'll be competing with other supply teachers for every job. These tips can help you to come out on top.

  • Be prepared: you need to be up and ready to go early in the morning to snap up the morning's jobs.
  • Be proactive: call the agency to see if there's work, letting them know that you're ready to travel immediately.
  • Check in during the day: if you wait until the end of the day to check in with the agency, you might find that many opportunities were taken at lunchtime.
  • Be prepared to teach different subjects and negotiate your pay, or you might find there simply isn't enough work available.

On the job

You'll need to be prepared for a variety of different days. Sometimes, the usual teacher will have left a thorough plan for you to follow, and sometimes you'll be on your own. You need to be adaptable and to have plans up your sleeve if you need them.

Whatever the job, you can expect the class to be harder to control than it would be for a permanent teacher. You'll need to be good at dealing with difficult behaviour. Find out about some of the skills supply teachers use to keep control.