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Practical Tips For Supply Teaching

Daryl Cheah
19 Jun 2017
5 mins read
Practical Tips For Supply Teaching

With a plethora of supply teaching resources online, it can be confusing for teachers to know where to get the best information. As we interview teachers all the time, we have compiled our top three practical tips to help with your next supply role and beyond!



  • Supply teachers working through agencies have no set rules regarding pay. As such, pay rates can vary drastically based on the type of role, responsibility, and location of the school.
  • Pay is often set at a fixed rate for short-term assignments where a teacher has minimal planning and marking responsibilities. For longer-term assignments, there is far greater flexibility based on the role and the individual.
  • Top tip: The daily rates you are quoted are usually before deductions for tax and national insurance. Make sure you check this and do your maths!

Agency fees

  • Agencies often charge schools a daily rate that is much higher than the rate a teacher earns. This is money being drained from the education system and is the reason we set up Zen Educate
  • At Zen Educate, we always charge a transparent £20 fee to the school instead of the £50-£100 per day an agency would charge.

When are you paid on the Zen Educate platform

  • Teachers are paid weekly in arrears every Friday. This means that you need to complete the work first before you are paid for it.
  • For example, any teaching work you complete between Monday 19 June and Friday 23 June will be paid on Friday 30 June.

Getting Work

Our tips on marketing yourselves to schools

  • Whether you are submitting an application or completing your Zen Educate online profile, make sure you are marketing yourself to schools. This includes having an up-to-date CV, specific information about your work experience and a crisp profile picture.
  • If you have previously worked at a school in a permanent role, make sure to highlight this front and centre in your CV. Rather than order your employment history by date, order it by relevant employment: schools, teaching placements, volunteer work with kids and other employment as this is what schools tend to look for first.
  • Emphasise your strengths - if you a particularly specialised and/or interested in teaching a certain Key Stage, don’t be afraid to mention this along with courses you have been on and credentials you have gained.
  • Why you teach - schools want to know that teaching is more than just a job to you, so explain what motivated you to get into teaching in the first place. Schools also want to know why you have chosen supply, so make sure to have a clear reason for supply.

Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checks

  • Subscribing to the online update service makes it easier if you are having to register with multiple agencies.
  • Most employers require a DBS certificate that was issued no more than 12 months ago. The update service allows a future employer to check that the certificate remains current.
  • More information on the DBS update service.


  • Give your references a quick call to speed up the vetting process, especially if you are registering with multiple agencies. Let them know which company will be contacting them and whether it will be by phone or email.
  • It is preferable if you have at least one reference from a school, either a Headteacher or your Head of Department.
  • A previous agency you worked through will be able to provide you with a reference, although schools prefer a reference from another school.
  • Top tip: Sending a thank you email to the Headteacher / Head of Department after your time at their school makes you memorable to them. This is also a great chance for you to ask them to be a referee for you in the future.

Preparing to teach in a new school

  • Leave yourself plenty of time to get to the school. Try to arrive early if you can as that gives you time to orient yourself around the school.
  • Make sure you know the contact at the school and what you’ll be teaching that day. Teachers often leave behind lesson plans but it is not uncommon to show up and have nothing left for you. For those ‘just-in-case’ moments check out some online resources for supply teachers just like this KS2 Year 6 Supply Pack.
  • Show the school you are enthusiastic — schools will be assessing whether they want you back or not. It is always easier to have a roster of schools that you are in demand with.
  • It is always better to be overdressed — how a teacher presents him or herself is one of the reasons a school has not re-booked a teacher to come back. This means no jeans!

Zen Educate is transforming how schools find great teachers.

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