Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a Cover Supervisor? If you’re looking for a teaching role that can fit around your other commitments, being a Cover Supervisor could be a great career choice for you.
We interviewed Nathania who has a Cover Supervisor job, to find out more about the role.
How long have you been in the role?
I’ve been working with Career Teachers since 2016 in various Cover Supervisory roles.
What did you do before you were a Cover Supervisor?
I was studying as an undergraduate, doing a part-time course in Social Sciences. When I had my second child, I took some time off before completing the course in 2015.
After that I did an internship at the University of Wolverhampton focusing on widening student participation. I wanted to teach Sociology, Social Care, Health, Safety and Environment, so I joined the Career Teachers agency as a Cover Supervisor and alongside that I did my Diploma in Education and Training part-time. With that qualification I can teach in Secondary Schools and Colleges, within the subjects that I studied.
Why did you choose to be a Cover Supervisor?
Initially, it was to gain experience before becoming a qualified Teacher. There’s a lot of room for growth within the job role. All I need now is my Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and I’ll be a qualified Teacher.
I’m hoping to get a long-term position that’s a suitable placement for me, but for now I like the flexibility I get within my work. I only work the days that are good for me and I leave home with my children, drop them at school, and we come home together. The role gives me a lot of flexibility in terms of what placements I can get, and the work is more frequent.
What was your qualification route?
I did an access course and a course in Health and Social Care, followed by my undergrad studies. I then did my Diploma in Education and Training.
Can you talk us through a typical day as a Cover Supervisor?
Yesterday I was covering history in the morning and art in the afternoon. The history lesson was on the Cold War, and what I’ve learnt in this role is that I’m not meant to know everything. I’m meant to be able to get the pupils to do the research, check their learnings, encourage them, and manage their behaviour in the classroom.
We come back to the learning objectives at the end of the lesson, so I can see what they have learnt. When I'm covering a class, my goal is to make sure they complete the work and achieve their objectives. When I was training, I was doing a lot of the research and my mentor told me I had provided them with all the answers, and they had nothing more to do. I now know it's not about me having all the answers, it's about me being able to check the learning.
What are the best bits about being a Cover Supervisor?
The flexibility. I've got two children and there have been times when I’ve needed time off, so being able to tell Career Teachers when I'm available and when I’m not. I have a good consultant and she works well with me. I know there's always work available and there are different roles I could go into with Career Teachers, it just depends on what I'm looking for and what comes up.
Another thing I like about this job is that I get to explore other areas of interest. For example, in the last two years I applied to do a Design and Technology Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), so I could get my QTS qualification and also retrain in a different subject area. I was going to specialise in Cooking, Textiles and Resistant Materials, but as I enjoyed covering Art so much, I want to see if I can do Cooking with Art and Design Technology. I could teach that as well as my Social Sciences, and with my QTS, that would open up other avenues of employment.
What are the least enjoyable bits about being a Cover Supervisor?
In all honesty, it’s when the pre-classwork isn't there. This can be a problem at some schools. Also, when you're trying to do the register, and the system they use is different. The way the PowerPoints are set out can vary from school to school, so you must get to know how they work. If I'm going to a school for the first time and it has a totally different system, that can be a bit tough, but I think I’ve got past my nerves now and I know to just ask someone.
What skills do you think you have developed by being a Cover Supervisor that you wouldn't have gained elsewhere?
Learning to adapt instantly and improvise. Like with the Art lesson today, the classwork wasn't there. As a Cover Supervisor you learn what questions to ask, like “what did you do last lesson?”, “what themes were you looking at?”, and “what artists have you been studying?” With this information, I researched online and found some artwork by a particular artist and asked the class to use this as inspiration to create a piece of their own. I told them to make sure that they included the artistic techniques used within the picture. Because I have covered Art before with the same school, I remembered how they do things. Learning to adapt is one of the main skills that I've acquired and the most useful one.
How has your role changed in the last year because of COVID-19?
Just before the pandemic I was doing an instructor role through Career Teachers and my Level Five qualification within Further Education (FE), which is one of the highest you can have. I was getting a good rate of pay and I was able to learn as well. When COVID-19 came, that work came to an end, and I found getting back into work afterwards was slow and unpredictable. But we’re still here and I've noticed, coming back into work, that Cover Supervisors are more in demand than before. So, in terms of me and my career, it's been a little detour but it's fine now.
Do you have any top tips for bringing a topic to life?
My top tip is to make anything that you're doing with the students relatable to what they understand. I think that goes across all subjects, if it's something that they can relate to, they will show more interest.
Do you have any plans for additional qualifications or career progression?
With my career progression there are a couple of different strands. With the Department for Education (DfE) and Training qualification, I know I can go self-employed, and I can do my own training. I've already got some ideas written down; I just need to build on the content so I can deliver it. When things go back to normal, I can provide Teacher Training in the areas of Education Equality, which is what I really want to do. Within the teaching route, I'll be completing my PGCE and I want to specialise in Food and Art.
What advice would you give to newcomers or those considering this job?
Preparation is key, because if you’re on call, you don't know where you'll be going. Be honest with your consultant as to your availability and how far you can travel. I'd rather be within a 20-minute drive, and so my consultant searches for schools within a five-mile radius. If it’s any further out, she tries her best to get me at least a day’s notice or phones me early in the morning.
When teaching, I think it’s best thing to be as open and transparent as you can. If I don't know something, I will tell the class that I'm not sure about that and I will check, or I tell them that I'll leave a note for their Teacher saying that they need to revisit that subject. I'm not embarrassed to say I don't know something, because I know I'm not meant to know everything.
Would you recommend your job to a friend?
Yes, definitely. Quite a few people that I know would be good. My cousin for instance, he's a Swimming Teacher. If he did a course in Sport, he would be a perfect Cover Supervisor for Physical Education (PE) within a school. Another friend of mine, she's always worked in Health and Social Care, but I know she'd be a good Teacher, as she knows the industry so well.
If you’re thinking about going into teaching and are not sure, I would encourage you to see what the opportunities are within the Cover Supervisor field, because most people have a lot of knowledge that they can share with young people.
We hope that this interview has given you an insight into being a Cover Supervisor. This is the perfect role for someone who wants to gain a broad range of teaching experience within different school environments. Due to its flexible nature, it would be possible to carry out this role whilst studying part-time or fitting it around the needs of your family.
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