03 May 2020
By Mark Richards
Cover supervisors were originally introduced in schools as a means of ensuring that teachers could maintain their non-contact time. As you don’t need to be a qualified teacher to be a cover supervisor, you are not expected to ‘teach’ as such. The role essentially requires you to supervise a class and to deliver cover work that a class teacher has set – hence the term ‘cover supervisor’.
Roles and responsibilities
The main responsibility of a cover supervisor is classroom management. A cover supervisor’s primary function is to ensure that pupils complete the work they have been set and that they remain on task.
In many ways, it is best to look at what the roles and responsibilities of a cover supervisor are in terms of what a cover supervisor doesn’t do, rather than by what they actually do.
So, a cover supervisor doesn’t need to have any subject knowledge – and certainly doesn’t need to be a subject specialist. Cover supervisors don’t plan lessons or mark work. They are not responsible for differentiating work, or setting targets or homework. All of this remains the responsibility of the class teacher. A cover supervisor simply ensures that the class does the work that the teacher has set for them.
Having said that, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that in some schools cover supervisors have been asked to take on a wide range of other responsibilities, including working with small groups of pupils, discussing and answering questions about texts with pupils, and allocating extension tasks.
Benefits of being a cover supervisor
For anyone who has ambitions of being a teacher, a cover supervisor role is fantastic preparation. The role provides excellent and invaluable experience of working with children and young people. This is highly useful if you plan to take on any job in the future which involves working with young people.
How to become a cover supervisor?
For those who are thinking of taking on a cover supervisor role in the future, the Level 2 Award in Support Work in Schools and Level 2 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools are suitable qualifications to study for, as is the Level 3 Certificate in Cover Supervision of Pupils in Schools.
However, there are no formal entry requirements and schools frequently employ cover supervisors purely based on the commitment that applicants show to working with young people and the enthusiasm they demonstrate.
Schools are free to set their own entry requirements for cover supervisors, and this varies widely across the country. Some schools require an honours degree as a minimum requirement. Indeed, many cover supervisors are highly qualified – some even have Qualified Teacher Status already. However, on the flip side, some schools will view any experience of working with young people as being as important as formal qualifications.
Cover supervisors require a wide range of skills. Firstly, they need to be highly adaptable and flexible. After all, there tends to be no regular timetable for cover supervisors. In time, naturally, if employed as a permanent member of staff, a cover supervisor will get to know pupils and staff alike. However, by the very nature of the role, a cover supervisor is sent where there is need, so flexibility is vital.
Cover supervisors also need to have a thick skin. Covering lessons is never an easy task. You are dependent on the quality of the work that has been left – and if you are not a qualified teacher, subject specialist or permanent member of staff, it is harder still. What’s more, pupils always seem to ‘play up’ more when their normal teacher is away.
Over time, you will learn more behaviour management skills and these will be crucial to being successful in the role.
What is the difference between a cover supervisor, supply teacher and a teaching assistant?
A teaching assistant tends to be working with an individual or small group of pupils – usually those with learning difficulties or disabilities. A TA assists the learning of pupils under the class teacher’s direction and supervision. A supply teacher generally covers lessons for absent teachers. Lesson plans/work is usually set in advance and it is a supply teacher’s responsibility to deliver the lesson effectively. Although supply teachers can be called into a school in the morning for just one day – for example, to cover teacher illness; it has become increasingly common for supply teachers to be employed to cover longer periods of staff absence, such as in half-term blocks. In this type of arrangement, it is likely that a supply teacher will take on more responsibility in terms of planning and marking.
Options for experienced cover supervisors
The most obvious career path for experienced cover supervisors is to train to become a teacher. Being a cover supervisor is also excellent preparation for becoming a teaching assistant. Indeed, any work with young people would follow naturally once you have experience of cover supervising.
Cover supervisor jobs - temporary or permanent?
Cover supervisor positions are most frequently advertised as permanent roles. Many schools choose to have a few cover supervisors as permanent members of staff. This is obviously a benefit to the schools but also to cover supervisors themselves. Of course, a permanent position is better for any individual for whom job security is an important consideration. Perhaps even more important than this, being a permanent member of staff means that a cover supervisor will become recognised as such by the pupils of a school. This makes the job of class management a lot easier.
Bearing in mind that cover supervisors are not meant to mark work or plan lessons, working hours should not exceed a 35 hour week.
There is no national pay scale for cover supervisors. The level of salary is totally at the discretion of local authorities and individual schools. As a general rule of thumb, the typical salary range for a cover supervisor is somewhere between a third to a half of an experienced teacher’s salary. However, agencies sometimes quote as little as £65 for a day’s work as a cover supervisor.
Remember that these are rough ballpark figures only. Some local authorities will quote 3 or 4 on the teaching pay scale – but without holidays. Salaries can often be negotiated, based on experience. For example, a qualified teacher seeking work as a cover supervisor can usually command a higher salary.
When and where to find?
Cover supervisor roles are advertised throughout the year in all the usual places that teaching vacancies are advertised. Schools also place adverts in local newspapers and job sites. Local education authority job pages are also worth looking at. Finally, recruitment agencies are often tasked with filling cover supervisor positions.
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