Supply teachers might require the flexibility that their role provides, but they also want consistency. Schools can meanwhile benefit from being able to call upon a reliable group of supply teachers who already understand the school and its culture, and are familiar with its teaching staff, methodologies and technology.
We all know what it’s like when you have to cover a teaching role at short notice but lack the capacity among your existing staff. The typical process – frantic telephone calls to local recruiters, desperate searches of the database – is one that puts pressure on admin teams, causes headaches for headteachers and doesn’t always deliver the best outcomes in the classroom.
Cultivating a talent pool will give you ready access to a select group of hand-picked supply teachers. You’ll know their strengths and be aware of their availability, and in turn they’ll know what you expect from them. This group might consist of teachers you’ve used previously and supply teachers who might have proactively contacted you.
You can also build a talent pool around recommendations received from recruiters about new supply teachers in your local area; these might include teachers who have recently retired or stopped working full time, but are keen to keep teaching.
Here’s how you can develop your own supply teacher pool in five steps:
1. Get the data on what you need from supply
How often do you need supply teachers? What’s the breakdown on a daily, weekly and termly basis? What internal resources do you have available, and what are your long-term requirements likely to be? Then there’s the question of what budget you have available for supply teaching and how it can be best deployed.
2. Do your workforce planning
The data gathered in step 1 will inform your workforce planning in step 2. We’ve previously come across a MAT that analysed its data and found there to be a consistent, year-on-year demand for a certain level of maternity cover, which compelled them to keep in touch with good supply teachers ahead of those positions needing to be filled. Things might not always be as clear-cut as that, but it’s often surprising how clear the trends that emerge from data can be.
3. The supply mindset: from reactive to proactive
Effective workforce planning can help with moving away from reacting to immediate needs and towards proactively engaging with supply teachers. Start including regular supply teachers in training days and offering them CPD opportunities.
4. Assign your best supply teachers to specific roles
As well as individual expertise and experience, supply teachers will have their own priorities. Carefully consider which supply teacher should be assigned to which role – some might be better at short-term availability, while others are well-placed to provide longer term cover.
5. Give and receive feedback
It’s worth gathering feedback from permanent teaching staff on how your supply teachers are perceived to be performing, and also from the supply teachers themselves on how they feel about working in your school. This will provide valuable information you can use to improve your talent pool, as well as how your school’s reputation, systems and processes come cross to those with experience of working in other settings.
Esme Bianchi-Barry is the managing director of Monarch Education.