No schools could cope without supply teachers.
They are life-savers, but, unfortunately, they are not even always afforded the professional courtesy of being given the basic tools and information to help make what is already a very difficult job that much easier.
We all know the challenges supply teachers have to contend with.
Potentially, they are faced with the prospect of teaching five different classes they don’t know, in five different classrooms they don’t know.
And we all know that sometimes even the most placid bunch of children often choose to play up when they have a supply teacher in front of them.
It means that in the perfectly pleasant setting of a school that could not really be described as ‘challenging’ in any way, a day’s supply can soon deteriorate into a nightmare.
Therefore, there are a few basics that all schools should give to supply teachers.
If they don’t, supply teachers should demand them.
A map and plan of the school
This is an absolute essential, as is an explanation of anything about the layout of the school that could be useful.
This might include information about split sites, one-way systems or the way the room numbering works.
This is a must-have item in any school induction pack.
Explain the policies and processes
Firstly, the small (but massively important) mundane business; the likes of the rules regarding lateness, the school mobile phone policy, and toilet passes.
These small matters can quickly escalate into big problems if they are not sorted from the off.
The basics of the behaviour policy need to be explained to supply teachers too.
The way rewards and sanctions are used and who to call for support if necessary are all things that need clarification.
However, support is something that can be pre-emptive too.
Often the presence of another member of staff at critical points, such as lesson change-over - or the head of department popping into a class to settle students down at the beginning of a lesson can make all the difference.
This is the sort of support that is greatly appreciated by supply teachers.
Data and pupil information
Progress and attainment data for students can be useful but SEND information and disability and access requirements about pupils are essential.
Furthermore, giving supply teachers the lowdown on pastoral issues and tip-offs about students who need to be kept apart, or those returning from exclusions or family bereavements, etcetera can be a real godsend.
There is no need for chapter and verse, but forewarning can mean that potentially awkward situations are avoided.
Provide quality cover work
Typically, when problems arise with supply teachers it will be because there are gaps in what has provided from the above.
The other massive issue is the actual quality of the cover work provided.
Cover work is often rushed – especially when the absence is covering a sick colleague – but if the absence is planned it should be an expectation of the school that the cover work set is of high quality.
Even if the work is cobbled together at the last minute, it still needs to be of sufficient quality – otherwise the supply teacher is really being set up to fail.