What do we really know about the supply teachers in our schools?
There are obvious benefits to having supply teachers available for when teachers in schools are unable to come into school and teach the class. But what do we actually know about the supply teachers that schools provide in these situations? And how are these stand in teachers impacting on the education and learning of the students in both the short and the long term.
Without a doubt it's important that there is a qualified and experienced teacher to stand in for teachers when they are unable to come into work so there's minimum disruption for the students and their education. But how often is this the case? Stand in teachers must be qualified for schools to hire them but in many cases these stand in teachers have had little or no experience in teaching the class they are needed for.
There is also obvious disruption in a class when a supply teacher takes over. This is only made worse when it becomes obvious that their supply teacher actually has no idea of what they need to be teaching. Often stand in teachers merely teach off notes that have been left by the class's normal teacher - something that the students themselves would have been able to do without the supervision of the supply teacher. They often have very little knowledge of what the students are like and what they are capable of as individuals, so it can be a hard job for them to actually communicate and help the students with their studies effectively, which their everyday teacher would have had weeks to view the class and see how each student learns and understands best.
Another important point to consider is how temporary teachers can be kept on for long periods when a teacher goes on long term sick. In these cases students can be negatively impacted by not having an experienced teacher in that subject for a large apart of the year and can greatly hinder them in their exams. This is often overlooked by parents who listen to the promise from schools that stand in teachers are merely a short-term solution but months of having different teachers, the priority of the schools being that every class is at least supervised means that the students ultimately suffer.
They are undoubtedly needed in order for schools to function, but there is certainly room for improvement in how schools hire their temporary teachers. They are a quick fix to a problem, so there is never going to be a perfect supply teacher suited to a class, but schools need to put more effort into looking at finding supply teachers that at least have had some experience in teaching either the subject of the class or the age group. This will lead to less disruption in the classroom, and give students the biggest chance to continue with their studies as though their teacher was present and their studies are not hindered by the absence of their teacher.