Today I had a half-day booking.
Increasingly, I find that schools are booking supply teachers only for the lessons that need covering. I can understand why this is from the school’s point of view, but it makes the supply teacher’s life harder.
When I go to a booking, it cost me the same whether I stay for the whole day or not, the same wear and tear on my car, the same petrol costs or the same public transport costs. A 50% reduction in my take home pay means that those costs now make up a far greater percentage of my income than they do when I work for a full day.
Of course, I’m free to refuse the booking if I wish, but with the dearth of supply work at present, who really wants to refuse work when offered it?
I was lucky that my agency were upfront about the duration of the booking, I know some supply teachers are not so fortunate. They turn up at the school in the morning, expecting to be there all day, only to be told that they will be going home at lunch-time. One supply teacher I spoke to today said, “I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known. It’s a sixty-two mile round trip – I can’t afford to do this again.”
The majority of local authorities no longer operate their own supply pool, so supply teachers have to work for agencies. These are profit-making private companies, so, obviously they operate in such a way as to maximise their returns. Well, wouldn’t you, if you were running a private company?
Unfortunately, schools have limited budgets, so they have to look around for ‘the best deal’ in terms of supply staff. This has led to supply agencies undercutting each other in order to secure contracts. The ultimate loser in all of this, of course, is the supply teacher.
Ten years ago half-day bookings were practically unheard of. I was booked for the day, and that was it. If, as it sometimes turned out, I wasn’t needed after lunch, I counted myself lucky, knowing that I would still be paid for the day. Generally I had to stay in school, just in case I was need to cover someone, but sometimes I would be allowed to leave. Frequently I had ‘free periods’ during the day, coinciding with those of the teacher I was covering. Now, such a thing seems a distant memory. I find myself dodging from one department to another, standing in for different people each lesson. In some instances, the person I am covering for is still in school – they’ve just be sent to cover someone else!
And my pay has fallen too.
I now earn 78% of my daily rate from six years ago. I am paid well-below my pay scale, something which would not have happened when the LEAs ran the supply pools. In fact, if I worked every school day during an academic year (something which is not possible, sadly) I would still earn less than an NQT.
So why do I do it? Why not get a permanent position?
Supply teaching suits me for a variety of reasons, plus I spend more of my time teaching than a salaried teacher does.
And teaching was the reason I became a teacher.