The downsides to being a supply teacher

As many of you will know I work as a supply teacher.  I’ve written previously about why I love being a supply teacher but I thought today I would share some of the downsides.  Supply teaching isn’t for everyone and I think for the most part the negatives are fairly obvious but here goes:

1. There’s no money in the holidays 

I’m pretty sure it goes without saying but as a supply teacher you can only work during term time – which means you just don’t get paid in the school holidays.  This also drags on into the days (or even weeks) at the start of term when people are less likely to be off sick or on courses.  (I know some supply teachers work as temps during the holidays but that wouldn’t work for my family).  Essentially it’s a case of knowing you won’t be earning anything and trying to budget for that – which is easier said than done.  At least on a contract your pay gets spread evenly over the year so you don’t have to experience a severe financial drought in August.

2. Your income is not guaranteed

Some weeks you’ll work full time, other weeks you’ll be lucky to scrape a day.  Just because you’re available to work 5 days a week doesn’t mean you will work 5 days a week.  Unless you’re on a longer term booking your income isn’t guaranteed and this can be tricky when it comes to running a family home or arranging childcare.

3. You can’t afford to be off sick

Can you see a theme here?  If you don’t go to work, you don’t get paid.  You really can’t afford to get poorly! (Same with your children being ill – mine always seem to choose days when I’m meant to be teaching to be sick and it’s costly!)

4. You’re permanently on a job interview

Every time you rock up to a new school you’ve got to prove yourself all over again, to get to know new people, new schools and new children.  If you don’t do a good job you won’t be going back.  This basically feels like you’re always going to a job interview. (Realistically once you get going you will have a handful of schools you work for regularly which negates this in the end)  Of course this works both ways as you are always sussing out the schools too and if you didn’t enjoy working there you don’t have to go back!

5. You need to be an expert at “winging it”

You will often not know from one day to the next where you’re going to be working or what year you will be teaching – it can be multiplying fractions in Year 6 one day or number bonds in Reception the next, you truly need to be a Jack of all Trades. (Of course you can specify to your agency that you will only work in certain year groups however you will limit the amount of work you get as a result!)

6. You miss out on training 

As a supply teacher the schools you work in are hardly going to send you on a course are they?  As you are unlikely to attend staff meetings or INSET days, all the in house training which occurs passes you by.  It’s up to you to keep yourself up to date with things and this can be really hard.  I think the longer you work on supply the harder you would find it to go back into a full time teaching job.

7. No staff nights out 

I haven’t been on a Christmas party or end of term night out in years.  You don’t really ‘belong’ anywhere and it can be quite lonely when you’re used to have a great team of colleagues around you.  I’m really lucky that because I work in the same schools regularly I’ve basically become part of the furniture and got to know people who I enjoy seeing and catching up with but you do miss the camaraderie of being a full time member of staff.

So yes, as with any job, there are downsides.  Supply teaching can be a risk financially and your days can be unpredictable but despite this it’s still the right choice for my family right now!  I’m often asked if I will go back to full time teaching and right now the answer is that I just don’t know!  

Find more posts about my experience as a supply teacher here:

Eight signs you’re a supply teacher

Six reasons why I love being a supply teacher

Why I will continue to supply teach

Supply teaching – Six ways to get rebooked


  1. August 8, 2015 / 7:48 pm

    I've been tempted by supply but I don't know how it would work with childcare – I couldn't afford for Toby to go to nursery if I wasn't working but obviously wouldn't be able to take up supply work if I didn't have somewhere for him to go. Maybe it will be more of an option once he has started school.

    • August 13, 2015 / 7:30 pm

      I'm very lucky with my childcare arrangements in that I only pay for what I use and also I only do pre-booked supply which means I know the night before if I'm going to be working or not – it makes life much easier.

  2. August 13, 2015 / 7:39 pm

    There are a few downsides there, but there must be positives too – you get to work in new places all the time and meet so many lovely people, plus you get lots of time with your family. I can totally see why the positives outway the negative 🙂

    Lyndsay | Fizzy Peaches

    • August 14, 2015 / 10:01 pm

      Absolutely – it works perfectly for us at the moment despite the downsides.

  3. August 13, 2015 / 7:56 pm

    I think with most jobs there are upsides and downsides but as long as it works for you and your family then that's all that matter x

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