Be a successful supply teacher

Be a successful supply teacher

For some overseas teachers, supply teaching is a great way to gain a regular income while indulging their thirst for travel from a UK base. It offers a wide range of benefits, such as variety of work, the ability to relocate easily, and offers a great deal of flexibility.

If you are interested in starting your global journey in the UK, keep reading!


To be a supply teacher, you’ll need to have obtained your Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) before you arrive in the UK.

Not a qualified teacher? Don’t worry, it’s more than likely that we’ll be able to find you regular supply work as a teaching assistant. You don’t need QTS to be a teaching assistant.  

You’ll need to be flexible

To have the best chance of securing supply teaching contracts and staying busy, you will need to be flexible. Once we’ve got you cleared and ready for work, we’ll be able to confirm the details of your assignment either the night before or the morning the assignment starts.

Ideally, we’ll confirm the night before. We like to give you as much time as possible to prepare your commute and lesson plans, but the nature of supply means that it will often be the morning of the assignment.

Schools start calling us from around 6.00 am! But most don’t have their requirements confirmed until around 7.30 am. From your point of view, having the flexibility to say yes to these last-minute calls means more supply teaching roles will come your way. Being up and ready to go in the mornings gives you the best chance to be on time. There will be a class full of children eagerly waiting for you!

Depending on where you are living, having access to a car, will help. Otherwise, getting to know the local bus, train or tube links will get you where you need to be. Turning up late, may affect your pay, as the school will have to get someone else to cover until you arrive.

Your preferences?

You can specify which ages/subjects you’d like to teach, or which types of school you want to work at, but this will filter your options and reduce your earning potential. 

Newbies need plenty of varied experience quickly. Having exposure to a wide range of schools and students will be invaluable – and you’ll notice your confidence and employability increasing too.

It also means that if you decide to look at full time teaching in the future –  either in the UK or back home, you’ll have a stronger CV, and a clear idea of where your own strengths and interests lie.

However, when you’re starting out, it pays to be flexible – not fussy!

Plan Ahead

In the life of a supply teacher, planning is key. When that call comes at 7.30 am, you’ve essentially got 60 minutes to make it into the classroom. It pays to be ready!

  • Set off early, so you have plenty of time to beat the traffic or queues for public transport and find the school.
  • Make sure you know what to do and who to speak to when you arrive at reception.

You want to set the tone for a good day, and turning up flustered, stressed and late is not a good look.

Lesson plans

Every great supply teacher comes armed with lesson plans.

Many schools will have plans for you to follow, but there will be times when this isn’t the case. You’ll need to use your own plans to ensure the pupils are engaged and on task. Don’t leave home without them!

You may have lesson plans you created at university, or during teaching practice. Don’t forget you’ll need to check they fit the bill in the UK.

Over time, you’ll build up a selection of your own lesson plans – and why not share with the teachers around you? You’ll use them time and time again, and strengthen your network of colleagues at the same time.

However, if the school has a set lesson plan, you should follow it. It’s there for a reason. Not sticking to the plan risks throwing off times and targets. Remember, you want to make a good impression.  

Show Confidence

Full disclosure: supply teaching can be tough.

You’re walking into a new classroom with children you don’t know, and behaviour you’re not sure of. AND you’re delivering a curriculum that’s – quite literally – foreign to you!

New faces, and change of any sort can be disruptive in the classroom. Entering with confidence will set the scene and discourage bad behaviour. Immediately grab their attention, start delivering your plan, and let them know who’s in charge. 

When it comes to behaviour management, experienced supply teachers agree that you shouldn’t try to change too much. They advise that you should avoid asking students to ‘help’ with rules or routines, because the chances are, they won’t!

Kids can be challenging, and the supply teacher can be an easy target. If you get the chance, speak to a teaching assistant (TA) or another teacher beforehand. In many cases you’ll be issued with policies and procedures when you arrive at the school. Getting a clear idea of what’s expected will give you a firmer footing if students try to take advantage of the newbie. 

Making a good impression will get you more work

As the saying goes, first impressions count! If you make a good impression, schools will start to ask for you back by name and put you on their preferred list. Many schools work in partnership with others, so if you play your cards right, you should end up with as much work as you can cope with.

At the end of a day, don’t forget to mark any work that’s outstanding, and ensure the classroom is tidy so the teacher that you have been covering for won’t have to worry about it when they’re back in.

Wear what works

You’ll need to dress smartly, but also for comfort. Most teachers are on their feet for most of the day, and if you’re in reception or nursery classes, you’ll often be bending down and sitting on the floor.

As a rule of thumb, in most schools in the UK, jeans, t-shirts and trainers are a NO. 

In summary…

Supply teaching is a great way to gain a wide variety of teaching experience.

Yes, you’ll often be on the spot, but the need to plan ahead and have confidence in yourself are both essential qualities for succeeding in teaching – wherever you are in the world.

Work for us

Wherever you are in your career, joining PPR could be exactly what you need to take your career to the next level. We’re ambitious for ourselves and others, and are always on the lookout for people who can make a difference.

We are #global!

Many of our clients are looking outside the UK to fill their vacancies, and we know there are great opportunities here. We’re relocation specialists, and have helped hundreds of candidates make the move.

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With an impressive geographical reach – at home and overseas, we’re perfectly placed to provide a wide range of highly effective recruitment services to our clients and candidates.