How to find the best agency for supply teaching roles

by Heena Modi on July 26, 2017

What’s your reason for joining a supply agency? 

I know of teachers who have set up a company and provide supply cover to schools directly. However, most teachers tend to join an agency that will provide opportunites for work.

I started looking at agencies because I’ve taught in one school for over 15 years, and I wanted to find out what other schools are like.

Should you register with one agency or multiple ones? 

I emailed several agencies and explained that I wanted to do supply teaching in/near Harrow. I asked them what the rate of pay would be to help me reduce the number of agencies that I had to choose from.

I began a conversation with someone at one agency, but before I met him to register, he’d left. His replacement rushed me through registration, saying she had lots of work for me, but she couldn’t discuss it until I passed their clearance procedure. I passed and waited, and waited, and waited. After hearing nothing but ‘we’re working on it’, I was finally told that they were retracted the rate that the original recruiter had promised me. They said they didn’t pay that amount for any daily supply roles.

This wasn’t the right agency for me, and it taught me not to put all my eggs in one basket.

How do agencies differ?

I joined about 5 agencies in the end, and the following summarises the process involved.

  • one recruiter met me at a mutually convenient location and took photos of my ID to avoid me having to come in to their office and meet the clearance officer
  • another recruiter arranged a video call, which she used to ‘see’ my ID
  • three agencies insisted that I came in to their office

Do all agencies get the same opportunities for work? 

I assumed that all agencies would be inundated with positions that they needed filled, especially due to the shortage of people joining teaching, or reminaing in it, once they’ve qualified. However, this wasn’t the case.

  • The ‘clearance officer’ at the agency where the recruiter met at a mutually convenient location, insisted that I went ahead with the meeting even though my CRB Certificate hadn’t come through. She said they would send me for supply work, and the school could verify the CRB Certificate for them. My file remained marked as ‘not cleared.’ Thus no work came through and the certificate wasn’t be verified. It took them ages to get their act together, send me offers that were within the distance I wanted to travel etc. After that I worked for them for five days or less.
  • I didn’t get any opportunities from the agency I had the video call with
  • Of the three companies whose offices I went to, one didn’t communicate unless it was to send inappropriate roles. After several weeks, I found out that the recruiter knew he was ‘leaving’ and he signed me up, knowing that they didn’t cover any schools in Harrow! The other was great at communicating but didn’t get me any work on the days I was available. The remaining one was amazing! My file cleared on the same day that I met the recruiter, and I was offered work the next day. That recruiter would look at my availability, consider how far I was willing to travel, and which roles I preferred, before she called to offer a pre-booking. She did this regularly and consistently whilst I was available for supply teaching.

A check-list that will help you work out which agency will be the best for you 

  1. work out what you’re willing to do
    • which year groups do you want to teach?
    • are you happy to teach in faith schools, single sex schools, academies, free-schools etc?
    • are you happy to work in schools for children with special educational needs?
    • how far are you willing to travel?
    • can you work half days?
    • what’s the lowest rate of pay you’ll accept
    • how many days can you teach
    • do you have set days that you’ll be available for work
    • do you want to be in lots of different schools or go to a select few?
    • do you want to teach a class, take intervention groups or do some other sort of cover?
    • do you want pre-bookings or are you happy to call and find out what’s available on the day?
  2. send a clear and concise email telling the agency what they need to ensure their offers meet your needs/terms
  3. before you register, ask them how many schools are signed up to them in the areas that you’re willing to travel to
    • if they only have one or two schools on their books, might you be better off registering with an agency that has a contract with a greater number of schools in that area?
  4. ask them if the pay will vary or if it’s a set amount
    • some agencies let the recruiter decide how much to pay, and that could vary according to how far you’re travelling, if you need to pay for parking, if they feel that you have been given an ‘easy’ role
    • some recruiters offer a set amount if you’re taking a class, but a different amount for PPA cover
    • most pay less money for daily supply, as opposed to, a teacher who signs up for a long-term post as a class teacher
    • recruiters operating in different areas of the same company may offer different rates for the same role e.g. Harrow may pay less than Watford
  5. find out how they will pay you i.e. PAYE or through an umbrella company
    • most umbrella companies can tell you how much they would pay for working a set amount of days per month, vs how much you’d earn through PAYE
    • do any benefits make up for the various amounts they deduct
    • find out about sick pay, opting in to a pension and so on

This is what I’ve learned whilst working as a supply teacher for about three months. If you have anything to add, or if you’ve had a different experience, please do get in touch. 

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