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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 00:08 GMT
Why I choose to be a supply teacher
Select Education office
Teacher supply agencies can offer long-term contracts
Lorrayn Webber has been a qualified teacher for five years but she still does not have a permanent job in a school.

It is not because she is not up to the job - she just prefers the flexibility of being a supply teacher.

Lorrayn started out as a nursery nurse, but while working at a school in Tower Hamlets, east London, her talent was spotted by an observant head.

"The head teacher said I should become a teacher - I don't think I'd have thought of it otherwise," said Lorrayn.

"According to her she just saw the potential, but I didn't think I was clever enough."

She eventually enrolled on a four-year BEd course at the South Bank University, specialising in early years education.

Pregnancy no bar

Towards the end of the course, though, she found she was pregnant - while the new arrival did not stop Lorrayn completing her degree, it did mean she only wanted to work part-time.

"My daughter was only little and so I didn't want to be working every day.

There are advantages and disadvantages - and for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages

Lorrayn Webber
"But it's quite difficult to job share - I did look for posts, but there weren't that many advertised," said Lorrayn.

"I thought there would be more - I was shocked actually, especially considering most teachers in primary schools are women with children."

Then her mother suggested she went on supply for a time and she jumped at the idea.

"It meant I didn't have to spend time applying for loads of jobs.

"And although I had specialised in early years, I wanted to re-evaluate that - I had a small child, did I really want small children 24/7?

"Going onto supply also got me into a variety of schools and so you can see what age you want to teach."

Daily grind

But daily supply work was not Lorrayn's cup of tea.

"You don't know the children, you can't really teach them anything, you don't know the daily routine - you're more of a baby-minder really, to cover the law you've got to have a teacher in the classroom.

"It's awful - but it suits some people, though."

Luckily, the head teacher of one of the schools where Lorrayn had spent a few days offered her supply work on a long-term basis - and she stayed for 18 months.

Lorrayn liked the set-up so well that, when she moved, she asked her agency, Select Education, to find her a similar "block booking" on supply.

Now she teaches three days a week at an infant school in Dagenham.

Meetings and admin

One drawback is that she does find she gets involved with meetings and administration - something supply teachers usually expect to avoid.

"The idea with supply is that you walk in and walk out, but it doesn't always work out like for me.

I just love the flexibility of it

"With fixed-term supply you do tend to take on some of the paperwork - and I do my fair share of meetings!"

And what about all the perks she is missing out on? Are sick-pay, paid holiday leave and a pension not a pull?

"The wages you get reflect that - you get quite a substantial amount and you can save," she said.

"I try and put money away when I know the holidays are looming and I'm not going to get paid.

"There are advantages and disadvantages - and for me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages."

Safety net

Lorrayn said being employed by a teacher recruitment agency, rather than a school, gave her the space she needed.

"I guess it's psychological - there's a safety net, there's someone between me and the school.

"If the head left and another one came in who I didn't get on with, then I can just go because Select is my employer.

"But ultimately I just love the flexibility of it."

And would she ever consider taking up a permanent job in a school?

"I say I will one day - but I said I would when my daughter started at school and I haven't - so probably never!"

See also:

09 Nov 01 | Education
The rising tide of temporary teachers
05 Nov 01 | Education
Supply agencies to be regulated
04 Sep 01 | Features
Supply teachers 'pick and choose'
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