Becoming a supply teacher can be a great way to enjoy flexible working and avoid staff room politics.

Life as a supply teacher can look pretty good from the outside. You work when you want, you avoid things like parents evenings and when the bell rings at 3.30pm you’re pretty much done. You can, however, end up in the firing line if you’re not fully prepared. With that in mind here’s a few tips to help you get started and get schools requesting you back!


If you have been given a pre-booking plan your journey the night before, knowing exactly where you are going takes the stress out of finding the school and getting there on time.

Get there early

There are a few key things that you will need to be familiar with, like the school’s behaviour policy, the teachers written plans, the whereabouts of the dreaded photocopier, staff toilets, tea and coffee making facilities so it makes sense to get to the school early.

Find out if the work is pre-set

Ask your agency if you need to bring your worksheets or ideas, has the teacher left teaching plans to follow? Also, check to see if you will have use of a whiteboard and, if so, that it will be set up for you.

Bring your own resources

It’s a good idea to have suitable teaching ideas up your sleeve so that you have something to fall back on if you need it. Introduce yourself to everyone.

The school caretaker is often a font of practical knowledge, and the front office staff can be helpful, too. Always greet the office staff with a smile and a hello.  Be confident and upbeat to other teachers and staff within the school, not only is it good to see a happy face but it leaves a great impression of you and your agency and your chances of being asked to return!

Ask about the children

Someone in the school who is familiar with the class should make you aware of any children with particular needs. You may need to organise the use of teaching assistants or adjust your plans. Be sure to take into account any pupils who might find change difficult.

Make yourself familiar

Get to know the timetable for the day, the school’s writing style, class rules for behaviour, how children are expected to move around the school, and whether there are any children who need special attention i.e. medication etc.

Find out about routines

At the start of the day make sure you are aware of the daily routine. Children will be reassured those routines haven’t changed and that you are in command.  Children respond well to challenges so kick off with an immediate challenge and something to get them focused at the start of the day.

Know your groups

Not off by heart, of course. But have names of children and relevant groups to hand so that the class can be easily organised. The children will usually know which groups they are in, but you may get a few who will play around so stick the list on the wall.

Have fun ideas for time fillers

There are always times of the day when you will need to fill short gaps, such as when a session finishes early or assembly is running late. It’s always worth having a few entertaining ideas, and a cupboard puppet seems to do the trick for some.

Know your bathroom limits

Manage toilet needs by having a maximum of two children in the bathroom at any one time. There could already be a rule about this though, so check with the teaching assistant. You want to avoid half the class visiting the toilet at one time.


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