What do we really know about the supply teachers in schools?


There are obvious benefits to having supply teachers available for when teachers in schools are unable to come into school. But what do we actually know about the supply teachers that schools provide in these situations? And how are these supply teachers impacting on the education and learning of the students in both the short and the long term.


Without a doubt it’s important that there is a qualified and experienced teacher to stand in for teachers when they are unable to come into work so that there’s minimum disruption for the students and their education. But how often is this the case? Supply teachers must be qualified in order for schools to hire them but in many cases these supply teachers have had little or no experience in teaching the class they are needed for.


There is also obvious disruption in a class when a supply teacher takes over. This is only made worse when it becomes obvious that their supply teacher actually has no idea of what they need to be teaching. Often supply teachers merely teach off notes that have been left by the class’s normal teacher – something that the students themselves would have been able to do without the supervision that the supply teacher provides. They often have very little knowledge of what the students are like and what they are capable of as individuals, so it can be a hard job for them to actually communicate and help the students with their studies effectively like their everyday teacher would have been able to do.

Another important point to consider is how supply teachers can be kept on for long periods when a teacher goes on long term sick. In these cases students can be negatively impacted by not having an experienced teacher in that subject for a large apart of the year and can greatly hinder them in their exams. This is often overlooked by parents who listen to the promise from schools that supply teachers are merely a short-term solution and a class would never go through months of having different teachers. However, the priority of schools seems to simply ensure that every class is at least supervised regardless of the suitability of the supply teacher which ultimately means the students suffer.


Supply teachers are undoubtedly needed in order for schools to function, but there is room for improvement in how schools hire their supply teachers. They are a quick fix to a problem, so there is never going to be a perfect supply teacher suited to a class, but schools need to put more effort into looking at finding supply teachers that at least have had some experience in teaching either the subject of the class or the age group. This will lead to less disruption in the classroom, and give students the biggest chance to continue with their studies as though their teacher was present and their studies are not hindered by the absence of their teacher.

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