Going into new schools can be daunting! We wanted to share some of our favourite top tips for supply teachers so you can be as prepared as possible and enjoy your supply day.


Arrive Early

A great tip for supply teaching is, if possible, arrive at the school early. This way, you have a chance to get your bearings. If it is the first time you are working in a school, you will probably be given the guided tour by a member of staff.

Make sure you register the important locations such as the staff room, toilets, office and dinner or assembly hall. You might also be given school policies to read and follow, so it is useful to have some spare time at the start of the day.


Check Your Duties

Take some time to ask about the children you will be teaching. There might be a staff notice board showing any medical or additional needs of children. Also, check to see if the teacher you are covering for has any additional supervision responsibilities such as the morning or break duty.


Check Class Routines

Another one of our tips for supply teaching is that some pupils can find it very difficult when their class teacher is away, and their usual routine is disrupted. Sticking to the established classroom routine can make this change easier for them.

Any assistants in the room are excellent sources of knowledge about how the day usually develops.  Work will probably have been pre-set, so you can follow this, but if not, most teachers will have a timetable stuck up somewhere.


Be Firm but Fair

Realistically, some of the pupils you will be teaching will try their luck with a substitute teacher. Typical pitfalls for supply teachers include the timing of break, lunch and home times, seating arrangements and the toilet policy.

Often, teachers will not allow more than one or two pupils out at one time to the bathroom, but if you appear more flexible, half the class will ask out at once. Get used to hearing, “Our teacher doesn’t do it that way!” and “But we are always allowed out five minutes early” or, “We just sit wherever we want.”

One of our tips for supply teaching is to trust your instincts and be firm but fair. You can use this behaviour management resource for supply teachers to help:


“Don’t Be a Mug!”

Okay, most staff do not care what mug they drink from at break times.

However – some people on every staff are as possessive of their cup as Gollum is of his ‘precious’. Just check before you use one, then you will not have to suffer the evil eye from anyone.


Bring Your Own

Through my experience, I have learned to bring my own pens, pencils, sharpeners, and erasers to a substituting job. This removes any excuse for pupils to wander around the classroom or to be unproductive. It also saves you going ‘on a desk-hunt’ through the classroom.

Another tip is to bring a few dry-wipe markers. It is just the way of the universe that 99% of those you pick up will be running out!


Be Prepared

Having a sense of humour and an open mind are great attributes for a successful substitute teacher. I once turned up for a day’s subbing to be informed that I would be taking the class to a muddy field to plant trees. One pair of wrecked shoes later, that literal ‘field trip’ taught me to always keep a pair of welly boots in the car, so be prepared.  


Bring A Diary

If you impress as a supply teacher, the school may ask if you are available for other dates. Have a diary ready so that you can accept and record any offered days.


Find Good Opportunities for Marking

If possible, grasp any little chances during the day to mark work. Perhaps mark an exercise together as a class.

For more complex work, look back at previous work that the teacher has marked so that you can use the same style, approach, and pen colours. If you mark all work completed you will enhance your popularity and it is more likely you will be asked back.



After the school day is completed, you could leave a few notes for the class teacher. Many returning teachers really appreciate this as they can see briefly what was covered in their absence, or any issues that cropped up.


Be Flexible and Organised

First, you do not have to dread those early morning phone calls. A little thought, time and effort put into arriving prepared for most eventualities will pay dividends.


Organise folders of age-appropriate resources and some ready-made lessons for different primary stages. This way, when you receive a last-minute booking, or arrive to find the class teacher has not left pre-set work, you can remain calm and carry on!