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What to look for when recruiting a supply teacher or teaching assistant

Published on 26th July 2017

Teacher instructing pupil

It is inevitable that your school will need to hire a supply teacher, or teachers, and teaching assistants at some point. Even schools with the widest pools of contacts they can draw on to cover classes will at some point need to employ locum teachers to cover either a few days’ work or a longer-term contract such as a maternity cover.

But what are the important things to look for when hiring a locum teacher? It is quite a skill employing locum staff and you often find yourself looking for different areas of expertise than you would do if you were employing a permanent member of staff.

Often it’s easy to get distracted by qualifications and an impressive CV. However, it is often worth looking behind the headlines to find out what the person behind the document is really like to find out how they can benefit your school and the children and young people.

Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is infectious and while you probably don’t want a supply teacher to be quite as dynamic as a children’s television presenter, you do want someone who is going to come into work with a smile on their face, eager to work, keen to learn, happy to fit in and hopefully spread positive vibes. Unfortunately the best of us can become jaded after a while and that can rub off on our colleagues and so look for a locum teacher with a spring in their step to brighten up the workforce. The children will inevitably respond better to a happy, enthusiastic teacher or teaching assistant too.

Hit the ground running

Everyone is busy and you don’t have time to handhold supply teachers through their daily work – otherwise you may as well do the job yourself. It’s important you can employ someone who can do the job and trust them to get on with things. While you will expect to give a locum teacher or teaching assistant an initial induction and introduction to the school, after that it is naturally beneficial to leave them to the job. Teachers with experience can often walk into the job and hit the ground running as can those with an aptitude for learning new systems and getting on with things. and it is wise to test this out at interview stage. A can do attitude can prove much more valuable than a first class degree at times (especially during the Christmas production!)

Complement your team

While it may seem like the ultimate dream to get the perfect teacher in as a locum who will run a ship tighter than Mary Poppins, you have to think about the rest of the team. You do not want someone to come in who is so perfect that it will ruffle the feathers among your permanent members of staff. Try and look for supply teachers who have the skills and attributes that will complement your existing permanent staff members – otherwise you could be faced with a mass exodus and looking for several more locum positions!

Flexibility

Often teachers and teaching assistants become locums because they want to have more flexibility in their working lives. As a result, they are probably more open to being flexible in return. Capitalise on that by thinking beyond the position you are employing the locum for. Do you have a project coming up that needs leading? Have you got another year group that needs covering in a month’s time? You may have taken this specific teacher on with one project in mind but it could be that they are skilled, willing and able to carry out more work for you too. Supply teachers frequently go locum to gain experience in different areas so during the interview stage, find out what their skills and aspirations are as it may work well with your own internal strategy.

What can they bring to the table?

Experienced locum supply teachers have usually worked in a number of schools and as a result will have an in-depth knowledge of how systems and procedures work in other schools. If you are struggling in your school with behaviour management, bullying or gangs, it can be well worthwhile discussing this with locum teachers and find out how these issues are dealt with in other schools and what has been effective. Use your locum teacher as your own ‘secret shopper’ to improve policies and procedures in your school.

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