6 top tips when choosing a supply agency

There seems to be a new supply agency opening every month but what they offer can vary considerably.

Working as a supply teacher is a great way of gaining experience in a variety of schools, figuring out where you would like to work if seeking a position, getting to know schools and establishing relationships and not having the commitments of full time whole class responsibility. However, it can also be a stressful role. Often rushing to a school at short notice, not knowing the children staff or routines and managing some very challenging behaviour to name a few. For these reasons it is crucial that you find an agency that is right for you.

Working as a primary school teacher until July of this year, over the years I have experienced a wide variety in the quality of teaching and learning in supply teachers. I was concerned about some of the teachers who I was leaving my class with when attending training courses or in the rare event that I was off ill. I could see the potential in most of these teachers and they told me about their lack of support, continual training and information given by their agency. Myself and another teacher decided that this was something that we were concerned enough about to set up our own agency.

I know that you probably think that this will turn into a sales pitch now but not at all. We are not out to make millions (although that would be lovely!). We want to support teachers and schools to enable the best education possible for children. Whilst in the research process of our venture we learnt a lot about supply agencies. I feel that I can offer advice as to what to look for when choosing a supply agency. I worked as a supply teacher before gaining my first teaching post and I didn’t know what to expect.  So here is some advice and the answers to questions that I didn’t know I should ask.

Here are my top 6 tips when looking into working with supply agencies:

1)       Locality Find out if they are working with schools local to you. Most agencies will be honest about this as there is no point in them working with you if you live too far away to call in the morning.

2)       Reputation What do you already know about the agency? When you ask friends or colleagues about them is the response positive? Does their website or the person on end of the phone make you feel like you would like to work for them?

3)       Pay Find out what their daily and half day rate of pay is. Depending on where you live you can expect to be offered from £75- £160 for a full day (for example the rate in London is much higher than more rural areas). Find out if there is an opportunity for a pay rise after a certain amount of time with their company. Make sure that their rate for a half day is good (I would suggest over £50) as a half day is actually longer than half a day. By the time that you have travelled to the school, taught, marked all the work, tidied and got home again. It has to be worth committing to, when a full day may become available.

4)       Compassionate Are the staff from the agency that will be booking you into schools from a teaching back ground? Or do they have enough knowledge of schools that you feel that they understand teaching and the difficulties of supply work. It is essential that you feel supported in what can be a very challenging role.

5)       Training- CPD Most agencies say that they offer CPD but sometimes don’t or charge a large fee to attend. It would be a good idea to ask the agencies when their last free CPD course was and what they have lined up in the near future.

6)       Hidden fees If you are looking for a full time or part time long term position with a school make sure that the agency doesn’t charge a finders/introductory fee. This is when the agency charges the school a fee if they have sent you to the school on supply and you then get offered a job there. Agencies won’t be forthcoming with this information so you will have to ask. I recently spoke to a man who had been offered a job in a school, spent the summer getting his class ready and planning to be told a week before he went back that his agencies had sent the school an invoice for £3500 for the ‘introductory fee’. The school were unaware of this fee. They apologised but said that regretfully he was now too expensive and they gave the job to the second candidate. If you are looking for a position at a school then it is a huge disadvantage if your agency apply a finders/introductory fee.

Finally, go with your instincts. If you get a good feel about working for them, think that your hard work will be appreciate and that you will be supported then give it a go. Why not sign up with two to increase your chances of regular work.

Any questions or comments are welcomed 🙂


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