Recruiting and Retaining Teachers: Understanding Why Teachers Teach

By Anne D. Cockburn; Terry Haydn | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

How do schools attract and retain good supply teachers?

'Substitute teachers have remained largely absent from educational agendas' (Morrison 1999). Mention the term 'supply teacher' to any head or deputy headteacher and, almost inevitably, you will induce a response along the line of 'I had to phone fifty times this morning until I found someone available to come in today' or 'we have half a dozen excellent supply teachers we like to use but, unless we book them well in advance, it is almost impossible to get hold of them'.

There is no doubt about it that supply - or substitute - teachers are, quite literally, in very short supply in this country. Ironically, the situation is compounded by one of the strategies being used to retain good teachers and encourage returners, namely continuing professional development. If practitioners are to keep up to date, be enthused and stimulated - the argument goes - they are more likely to be confident, highly motivated and enthusiastic teachers. Continuing professional development takes time however and, if it is to be optimally effective, it is best done during the day when most teachers are freshest and most receptive. Providing teachers time away from the classroom also raises the status of such activities, adding to the notion that INSET, etc is an important part of professional life, rather than something incidental and unimportant which can be squeezed in at the end of a busy day. Clearly some professional development can be done as an entire staff when the school is closed to its pupils. Other professional development, however, is better done if tailored to the more individual needs of groups of teachers, be they new to the profession or more experienced, but in need of specific training. In both cases the course dates are generally known well in advance, giving more time to undertake the search for a suitable supply teacher. Covering the class of one newly qualified primary teacher under such circumstances is not generally a major problem. Trying to cover for ten - let alone twenty or thirty -

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