Pros & Cons of Working as A Supply Teacher

If it is hard for you to find a permanent teaching position, you should consider working as a supply teacher. The question is, how does it all work and what are the pros and cons of doing this?

Teaching recruitment agencies that specialize in education typically advertise supply work. However, some local authorities and schools do hire supply teachers directly. If there’s a particular local authority or school that you would like to work for, you should consider contacting them speculatively.

Agencies (also known as Recruitment Consultants) are commercial organizations that range from small local firm to large national and international companies. While some cover several sectors, some focus solely on education. The school pays the agency a fee for the recruitment services and the prospective employee is not required to pay any fees.

Supply teachers are hired either via umbrella companies, supply teaching agencies, or directly by academies, local authorities, and schools. Umbrella companies act as employers to supply teachers and often pass on various costs to the teacher including the umbrella company’s fee and the employer’s National Insurance contributions.

Registering with the agency starts with submitting a resume or application form, followed by a meeting with one of the recruitment consultants or agents. While regular work is not guaranteed, supply teachers capable of adapting quickly and at short notice to different age groups, subjects, pupils, and schools will be in more demand than the ones that are less flexible.

NQTs usually ask how working as a supply teacher can affect the requirement to complete a probationary or induction year. Currently, the rules state that from the time when the QTS is awarded you are free to take short-term supply work of at least one term in a relevant school for a period of 5 years maximum without a completed NQT induction year. It is a fixed time limit without any discretion for extension. Short-term supply placements less than a term or its equivalent can’t count towards induction. Once the 5-year period concludes, you will have to take up a position that will count towards your NQT induction year. If you want to learn more about the induction year, you should refer to the guidance document from the government.

UOC careers service will help you build a teaching resume and advise you on the appropriate agencies you should approach. It is advisable to pick an agency that specializes in teaching and specifically supply work. It is also important to check that they are members of the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC). If you see an agency with the REC logo, then it means that it is required to adhere to REC’s Code of Professional Practice and has already passed the initial compliance test.

Does working as a supply teacher offer any advantages besides gaining permanent employment? No and Yes.

Variety, freedom, and flexibility.

The ability to choose whether to decline or accept work.

The ability to work in different locations and settings.

You are not tied to a permanent contract and you can take your vacations in term time when it is cheaper to travel.

You get to combine learning with working. For instance, you can pursue your Master’s degree part-time while still working.

Employment prospects and professional development

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You can experience different ways of doing things, which is great when it comes to developing expertise and confidence and picking up new ideas.

You can experience different settings and this will broaden your horizons.

You will be more likely to secure a permanent contract if you have been working as a supply teacher than if you are working in a non-teaching role or are unemployed.


First impressions matter and as you meet many head teachers and teachers, you will have numerous opportunities for networking.

Establish your reputation. Head teachers usually network with fellow head teachers and if you are good, word will spread.

“Trying before buying”

Get an insight into various schools and choose the setting that will best suit you.

If you plant to relocate elsewhere, supply work will give you the opportunity to get a feel for different schools and communities in the new location.


If you become a supply teacher, you will tend to do less of the onerous daily preparation and planning that permanent teachers are expected to do.

Once you are a permanent teaching staff, you may not attend as many meetings.

What are some of the disadvantages?

Financial insecurity

While some of the supply teachers get plenty work, some do not.

If you wish to apply for a mortgage, the lack of regular income can be a problem.

Depending on the nature of your employment status and contract, the terms and conditions of employment may vary.

Irregular Work

It is only when you are an NQT that the availability of work will be regular.

It can be stressful to be called upon at the last minute. If you turn down work and say ‘no’ you may worry about never being called upon again.

It can be hard to plan for the future since you may or may not be working.

Failing to belong

Being a supply teacher can be quite lonely since your colleagues won’t always have time to properly know you.


Access to continuing mentoring support and professional development can be irregular.

If you are working in a particular school for just a short period, you might find it hard to know the children and might therefore find it hard to teach them.


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