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Anne Jakins

Secondary Cover Supervisors

12 posts in this topic

I read the posting about workforce reform with interest. Does anyone work in a school that successfully employs cover supervisors ? This surely has to be a very stressful job. How do people with little or even no previous experience in dealing with the dynamics of class teaching/supervision aquire those skills over a matter of weeks? Is this a pessimistic view or are there cover supervisors happily working in your school?

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There have been full time cover supervisors employed in my school since September 2003 and they have been very successful to date. They are very much part of the staff team and are trained and closely supported by senior staff. They were carefully selected at interview and initially they began work as any new teacher trainee would - observation of classes, familiarisation with the buildings, the staff and the routines etc. They then started by supervising only classes of younger students, then later going into fairly carefully selected classes of older students. In this way they have been able to gain experience and confidence, and the students have accepted them as being a part of the establishment.

At no time are our cover supervisors expected to set or mark work. They are able to call for assistance if required through the channels set up for all teaching staff. On the occasions when there are no classes requiring supervision (yes it does happen sometimes!) they have been assisting with administrative duties through the school office.

As a staff we have been relieved of much of the uncertainty about whether we would lose those precious non-contact periods designated for the multitude of jobs that seem to pile up.

The key is, though, if you get a good supervisior they are invaluable but they don't become good on their own!

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I can verify that they do get support in our school and that it is a pretty welcoming place anyway.

However it does seem telling that they tend not to stay long, and are paid a very low wage for the job they do. It will not take long for them to realise that they are doing a supply teachers work for a third of the wage.

Cover supervisors appears to me to be yet another badly thought out half baked government "solution" to the supply crisis and teacher shortages. There are are no statutory national guidelines on conditions of employment, no union representation (thus few rights and very little influence), and one would wager precious little training in most schools - to my knowledge nothing is statutory.

At best it may prove a useful stepping stone for wannabe trainees to get some paid experience, at worst it represents the further "deskilling" of what used to be called a profession. I too like my frees "protected" but would also prefer pupils to be taught and supervised by properly trained graduate professional teachers. I suspect most parents would share my views on this.

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I woull like to know whether the supervisors are specific for each discipline or not.

Thanks..

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I woull like to know whether the supervisors are specific for each discipline or not.

Thanks..

No they are expected to cover all curriculum subjects.

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I concur with Andy Walker’s observations about cover supervisors, in particular that “it will not take long for them to realise that they are doing a supply teachers work for a third of the wage”.

It seems to me that the DfES “remodelling” strategists have schemed that, by pretending to answer teachers’ concerns, such as our excessive workload and the burden of cover, they can then implement their real agenda. This is nothing to do with helping staff but all about reducing the overall expenditure on school staffing by replacing teaching jobs with lower paid support staff. (as spelt out in their recent “Blue Skies” document).

At first sight, some colleagues may welcome having cover supervisors in place, protecting their non-contact time. However, supply teachers, for one, will not because their jobs are rapidly being replaced by cheaper, less qualified labour. Teachers as a whole need to be warned that, in the long run, it won’t just be short-time cover carried out by low-paid staff, it will be longer vacancies and then permanent posts. This will particularly happen in those schools where it is hard to recruit and/or budgets are tight. The gap between “winners” and “losers” in our education market will open further.

Unfortunately, some national guidelines (“Guidance for schools on cover supervision”) have just been agreed by the other teacher unions (apart from the NUT) and the employers. These allow for cover supervisors to teach for the first three days of absence in a primary school, even longer in a secondary school. They are expected to “manage behaviour” and “respond to any questions about process and procedures” (presumably to be able to confirm that, yes, it is Q.1-6 on page 135 that you should be doing, but not to be able to help the pupils actually answer them!)

There are some very able support staff who may well be, as Andy puts it “wannabe trainees” and could make excellent teachers. However, they should be on a proper training course to become qualified teachers and paid properly for the work they do. There are others who will be either dragooned in to the work by Heads or see it as a way to earn a living without realising how they are being exploited as cheap-rate supply teachers. Either way, many will not stay for long given the pressures of the job in so many of our schools, certainly those that I know in London, but I am sure many others too. This will only add further to the instability of school staffing.

Equally, there are complaints about the quality of supply staff. However, anyone who has tried it also knows what a difficult job it is to do as an outsider labelled “supply” in front of a class of poorly motivated school students. The real way forward would be to stop the privatised agencies ripping off supply staff and school budgets alike and for schools and LEAs to have the funds to properly employ pools of additional staff known to the schools and pupils. They could properly teach pupils and reduce teacher workload at the same time.

Martin Powell-Davies

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In response to Andy's point of view re the status of the cover supervisor:

It will not take long for them to realise that they are doing a supply teachers work for a third of the wage.

I don't agree with the view that the cover supervisor is expected to do a supply teachers job.  As I said in my previous post - at no time are our cover supervisors expected to set or mark work. They are not expected to teach the class, only to supervise them while the students do work set by someone on the teaching staff!

On the other hand a supply teacher is expected to be a professionally qualified person who will actually teach the students in the classes to which they are assigned and in my experience as a former supply teacher that means going into classes with little or no support from the regular staff.....how easy is that?  Up to a point it may be fine if

i) you are expected to teach your own subject

ii) you are immediately familiar with the school systems, geography, availability of resources, schemes of work etc etc

Even in one's own school it is very difficult to deliver a suitably professional cover lesson without some preparation.  When most teaching staff do a cover lesson don't they expect work to be set by someone in the department?  Don't they expect to be able to hand it out and the class to get on with it? Do they really expect to teach the lesson? 

Many short term supply teachers do not go into schools with the intention of delivering a properly prepared set of lessons.  They do what most full time teachers do - expect work to be set and then sit with the class while they do it.  Indeed I have known supply teachers who complain long and loud if there is no work set or the class completes it before the lesson is over! Is this what Andy would expect when he says

I would prefer pupils to be taught and supervised by properly trained graduate professional teachers.

We do have number of 'regular' supply teachers who work with us on a longer term absences and they do a superb and totally professional job. At no time would I suggest that such long term cover be taken on by cover supervisors.

When supply staff are employed, however, they are paid for their professional expertise and not just to 'babysit' whereas cover supervisors are only expected to 'babysit'. Cover supervisors are part of the school's team and are available at a moment's notice, unlike supply teachers who are rarely available when the 'I'm sick' call comes in at 8 a.m with school due to start at 8.45 a.m.

With regard to the wages, schools locally have advertised for supervisors at a wide variety of rates and I expect that it is a case of what each school thinks the job is worth, or what each school can afford! Supply teachers are highly expensive to employ - not only their salary but the teaching agency cut as well!

The situation is not ideal at the moment I would agree but some practical solution has to be found to deal with teacher absences. Professional teachers cannot any longer be expected to do their own and someone elses job during the course of a working day. If cover supervisors provide a way forward we cannot afford to discount their potential value in supporting the profession, any more than we would discount the value of any of our other support staff.

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I agree with Maggie that the cover supervisor is not expected to actually teach the class , just supervise the students while they complete the work. However, in my experience, when faced with a challenging class the most effective way of engaging their attention and keeping them on task is to teach.Students who do not have the concentration span to work independently for an hour require skilled management . If you try to explain to someone who has had little or no previous experience of the classroom the intricacies of classroom mangement , you realise what a wide range of skills teachers possess.These skills have become so instinctive that we often do not recognise them ourselves.

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I think one of the most significant points of this debate is that it has now become acceptable for a non qualified non graduate to take classes in the UK. Whether they are just supervising the work set by a professional or teaching or facilitating is really just playing with words. The bottom line is that you no longer need professional training to take classes in British schools.

This is the point the NUT simply could not accept in the recent workload "agreement". In my view quite rightly. I am not convinced that parents or students are aware of this departure which is ultimately both a threat to educational standards and a threat the status of the teaching profession.

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In South Australia a relief teacher is paid more than a permanent teacher, and is expected to deliver work set and marked by the absent teacher. We all "do reliefs" in our regular role (often one a week, depending on the absence rate at the school). The absent teachr marks work and the relief teacher tries to engage students with meaningful tasks. YEUCH

One school I taught at required all teachers to submit a "relief" for every class to be held in case of an emergency. On my first day teaching in Singapore I was presented with a piece of paper with Chinese writing on it that looked suspiciously like a relief slip. I tried to feign innocence but had it thrust back at me. Yes it was an extra lesson.

Contracts need to be at least 4 weeks and they are expected to set, mark and deliver with a 25% pay loading.

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I started working as a cover supervisor in a small team a few weeks ago in the South-West. I am a french-speaking Religious Studies graduate with lots of TEFL experience and have just spent over a year as a teaching assistant. I am in the process of changing my career from working in the Church. It is early days and my opinions may change but so far I see the post as a good way to ensure continuity. I am not expected to teach but to present a prepared lesson plan (usually written tasks) and supervise the carrying out of the task. I cover most lessons not because of illness but because of meetings, training, etc., and there is a very good rapport between the teaching staff and the cover team. The pay is not high but I do believe people who already have experience in a teaching/classroom environment will be attracted to the cover supervisor position as a stepping stone to qualifying as a teacher, which is what I am doing. I hope this small piece of information is useful.

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They are not expected to teach the class, only to supervise them while the students do work set by someone on the teaching staff!

On the other hand a supply teacher is expected to be a professionally qualified person who will actually teach the students in the classes to which they are assigned and in my experience as a former supply teacher that means going into classes with little or no support from the regular staff.....

Things are obviously different at our school - supply teachers here expect a detailed lesson plan, usually just consisting of a list of p63 ex 1-3 etc. We are expected to leave this detailed work ourselves if the absence is planned, and those on responsibility points are expected to do it for those who are off sick. I am currently into my sixth week of setting detailed cover work for an absent teacher. Occassionally we are lucky to get a former member of the dept who will do some proper teaching and keep the classes moving forwards. Most of the time, however, it is non-specialists who expect to just babysit.

I'm not sayin I agree that cover supervisers could do the job - for a start I think discipline would be an issue, and as others have rightly said, it amounts to little less than exploitation. However, it wouldn't be that much of a change for those of us lumbered with setting work.

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