How to be the perfect cover teacher

Supply teachers can often find themselves thrown in the deep end when sent at short notice to a school or alternative provision. So if you are new to cover teaching work, or simply want to be sure that you’re being the best cover teacher you can be… read on.

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1. Find out about the school

If you’ve been booked for work on the day, then you might not have time for research. But if you’ve been booked in advance, or if you’re getting public transport to your destination, you may well have time to find some information out about the school you’ll be working in. You could look at their website, Ofsted reports, or even social media pages and local papers. School websites may have policies and procedures published on them – this can help you to understand the day to day expectations and how the school runs. Ofsted reports may help you to understand the strengths and weaknesses in the school – which in turn can help you to understand where you can add most value. If you will be working in a specialist provision, the research you do should help you to better understand the range of needs within the school and what sorts of training and systems they use to effectively support their students. Research can therefore be a very valuable thing to do prior to going into a school.

2. Carry your DBS and ID at all times

A lot of schools will ask to see these documents before allowing you to undertake work on their site. Even if your consultant says they have sent vetting information to the school, it is a very good idea to keep these bits of paperwork with you in case the school wishes to see them or take copies for their own files.

3. Be on time

It sounds like a no-brainer, but any agency consultant will tell you hundreds of stories about cover staff who have been booked and then turned up really late for work, causing problems for the school they are in that day. Remember, cover staff are only booked when schools are not able to cover their absences internally – so by being late, you leave them in a sticky situation and it’s not likely to create a very good first impression or help you get invited back for more work in the future. Therefore, if you want to be the perfect cover teacher, you should aim to be on time for work!

4. Communicate effectively

If you are running late and it’s beyond your control, then the most important thing you can do is communicate this to your agency contact so that they can liaise with the school. Give an honest idea of when you will turn up so that alternative arrangements can be made until then. You should also make sure to apologise for your lateness to the school contact on arrival. We all have times when lateness is unavoidable – it’s how we deal with it that counts. Communication is also key throughout the day – always check what the expectations of you are, liaise carefully with other staff members and try to make sure you continue with the work the students are doing as seamlessly as possible. It’s also a good idea to check in with your school contact before you leave at the end of the day – you may need to get them to sign a paper timesheet or check if there is anything they need you to do before you head off-site. If they ask you to come back for a future booking, remember to communicate this back to your agency. It’s also essential to let your consultant know if there have been any problems or issues while at the school on a placement.

5. Carry supplementary work

Schools should always leave work set for cover teachers to follow – but anyone who has worked in the industry will know that this is not always possible. So a perfect cover teacher should always aim to carry a range of worksheets and activities with them so that they have something to fall back on. Nothing loses the engagement of a class faster than having nothing for them to do.

6. Don’t be a moaner!

Schools can sometimes be tough places to work – it’s no secret. But you should remember that school managers look for positive, pro-active, can-do type people. Therefore, if you spend your time complaining about not having enough information, not having set work, your journey or anything else, it’s likely to reflect poorly on you. If you’ve had a difficult time or don’t think it’s the right school for you to return to, just communicate this to your consultant at the agency – don’t bend the ear of school management (or any other staff members) as it can be perceived as offensive or rude and may harm your chances of getting future work – either in that setting or potentially in others, too!

Are you looking for supply teaching work in England or Wales?

If you think you’re the kind of cover teacher we are looking for and you are currently seeking work, why not register with Axcis, the SEND recruitment specialists? Or perhaps you need to recruit staff for your school or provision? If so, why not take a look at the Axcis Website, or get in touch today to find out how we can help?

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