Is there Supply Work in London?

| March 8, 2011 | 6 Comments

A lot of questions come in through our Contact form from teachers looking for more information about teaching in the UK. RMTA visitor, Julie, sent in a question that is on the minds of many teachers hoping to supply teach in London:

“I am intending to head to London to work as a secondary teacher late this year, but have heard there is little supply work available due to budget cuts. If you can provide any information on this issue it would be greatly appreciated.”

There is a lot of buzz in the teaching community about lack of supply work in London and the rest of the United Kingdom. Especially on the Internet, there are threads upon threads in forums from worried or disgruntled supply teachers who are either not getting work or are afraid for their future prospects.

Julie is right in that budget cuts are causing many schools to rethink how they provide cover for absent teachers. However, as we will see, this does not automatically eliminate the need for supply teachers as some discussions around the internet would have you believe. In fact, if you implement some strategies (discussed in the next article), you can still find plenty of work as a supply teacher. It is important that you understand the current supply situation though, so let’s start by looking at how and why some schools are reducing their dependence on supply teachers.

There are three primary ways that a school can cover a class when a teacher is away:

  1. Supply Cover – schools request the help of an off-site, qualified teacher to come in for the day(s) and cover the class.
  2. Cover Supervisor – some schools hire a full-time employee who covers for absent teachers. When not covering, they may also do admin work or help in other classes. Cover supervisors are not always fully qualified teachers.
  3. Teaching Assistant – In some cases—and the legitimacy/legality of this method is questioned—schools promote TAs or other unqualified employees to the role of “teacher” for the day when the actual teacher is away.

As you can see, if a school has the opportunity to save money by using one of the latter two methods, it may make more financial sense to do so. However, one can also see the inherent drawbacks to these two methods. Cover supervisors add a permanent full-time body to the school where one may not always be needed while promoting TAs to the role of teacher is questionable. On top of this, it is impossible for schools to fully predict how many teachers they are going to need in the school at any given time and, thus, there will always be a need for supply cover—even if the numbers do drop due to alternatives. For this reason, some of the claims made around the Internet that the days of the supply teacher are numbered hold little claim.

The current situation for supply teachers is not simple. Some complain of no work while others are receiving 3-5 days per week. If this is the case, there must be something you can do to improve your chances of getting supply work. In our next blog post, we will discuss some tips that will help you find work as a supply teacher.

As for answering Julie’s question directly… yes there is supply work available in London and the rest of the UK. It may be in less demand than previous years as some schools use alternative cover methods and it may require more effort on your behalf to secure work. However, there are ways that you can improve your chances of being financially comfortable as a supply teacher in the UK. Stay tuned for our next article, which will discuss some tips for securing work as a supply teacher.

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Comments (6)

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  1. London Teacher says:

    Hi Gian,

    Supply work is still available in the UK but I’m sure you aware that with cutbacks and such, schools seem to be cutting corners to save money. For instance, hiring cover supervisors which cost less than a teacher. Also, when I did supply teaching and saw that qualified teachers were working as TA’s, but actually wanted real teaching work, it gave me a sickening feeling that times are tough for agencies who are trying to give candidates whatever work they can in order to retain them. On the otherhand, some teachers may have accepted the TA jobs for the love of educating students, or simply for financial need as London is an expensive city to live in. I guess it is all about luck and timing. But beware, although schools may request you, that doesn’t mean your agency will place you at all. I have heard of instances where consultants need to spread the work out amongst their candidates which sort of makes sense, but you lose out for the sake of the consultant (and other candidates). Good Luck!

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  2. Gian says:

    Hello Natalie et al. I’m one of these OTT’s who went to the U.K. to teach in 2006 and understand how we’ve been given more opportunities for daily supply because we’re not qualified and are willing to accept less. I chose to get my QTS so that I could remain in the U.K. However, after achieving QTS, I discovered that agencies who were keen on finding me daily work or contract work, stopped calling, as now they are forced to pay me according to the Teacher’s Pay Scale. Achieving my QTS had become more of a detriment when it came to applying through agencies.

    I am intending on returning to the U.K., but would be interested in daily supply or cover supervisor positions only. To echo the benefits of daily supply teaching, is avoid the burden of planning and preparing lessons, marking books, creating and evaluating assessments, and writing reports. These alone took my life when I wasn’t in the classroom, break periods included.

    I know there’s a trade-off; lower pay, no pay over holiday periods. However, I believe that a person’s time is invaluable, not to mention the opportunity to take advantage of the PAYE tax advantages.

    A question for the Admin: is there more supply work available in 2012-2013, or has become even more competitive, particularly with more OTT’s going over the U.K.?

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  3. Iain says:


    I have been doing supply in and around SE London and Kent ( all over) for many
    many years.A few observations:

    1:You could do with an extra income.Do tuition,TEFL,Ad Ed,Exam marking and the rest,or have an entirely different sideline.

    2:It’s definitely decreasing at the moment,but if you are prepared to go anywhere
    and especially if you will do anything and always cope,I have found I get work.But not tons of it.

    3:I aim at and make about 16k a year,not entirely through supply.This is no gold mine.I have another stream of income – my wife – and very low outgoings.

    4:Supply is a bit lonely at times,but I love picking and choosing,having hols when I want,and especially having time – except when I am doing long term stuff!

    Good luck all!

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  4. Admin says:

    Hi Natalie, you’re quite right that supply work is declining. What the article was trying to point out is that the need for supply work is not likely to completely disappear anytime soon. While some teachers are not receiving any work–as albertdog has pointed out–there are others who are getting 3-5 days a week. The supply situation is questionable right now and may not be the best career option. However, for those who are still keen on trying supply, there are some things that can be done to improve the chances of finding supply work. We will discuss these in our next article.

    As you mention, agencies can play a key role in this, which will be discussed further in our next article.

    Thank you both for contributing!

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  5. Natalie says:

    I don’t believe this article. No there isn’t enough supply work!
    Agencies are encouraging OTT to come over and then they undercut the rates of qualified teachers so that teachers with QTS are no longer getting work.

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  6. albertdog says:

    As I have said before, I have been looking for supply work in London for the last nine months: I have 30 years experience of teaching science and maths. I have registered with 24 agencies during that time and between them, I have been found 2 days work. I have sent e-mails introducing myself to literally ever seconday school and PRU within a twenty mile radius: only two schools replied, both in the negative. If someone has any other ideas of how to get work, i will be glad to hear them.

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