The Hardest Job in School

22nd June 2015  |  by Greg

Who has the hardest job in schools?

This is an easy one. In primary, it is the HLTA or teacher who covers PPA. In secondary, it’s cover supervisors. If you disagree, try swapping places for a week. The reason their roles are so difficult is because of the differing expectations of the staff they are temporarily replacing.

“We don’t do it like this with Mrs Normalteacher!”

This is a very annoying phrase for covering staff for two reasons:

  1. Mrs Normalteacher isn’t in charge right now, they are.
  2. Life would probably be a whole lot easier and simpler if they actually knew what the expectations for this class were.

When I deliver whole-school training, my approach is often most popular with these particular members of staff because as part of the training I help schools to agree on some whole-school routines. Here are some whole-school routines that HLTAs and cover staff love:

  1. Having a single way to stop groups of pupils. (It’s important to mention here that every single member of staff doesn’t need to stop children in exactly the same way every single time they stop them. The approach for getting attention in reception and Year 6 for example, can be different. I’m just suggesting schools have one method that everyone uses often enough that it becomes the default method.)
  2. Everyone has an activity waiting at the beginning of lessons. When planning is left for a HLTA or cover supervisor, these activities are supplied.
  3. A specific set of steps that can be used in reaction to students who make choices that may stop them or others from learning or stop them being safe. (How many times do schools leave cover staff and less experienced staff with very little guidance on how they should react to poor behaviour? Is there any surprise that many staff resort to shouting, nagging and lecturing?)

Schools that have embedded just a few school-wide routines find that lessons covered by HLTAs and cover supervisors run much more smoothly. It’s an easy win for schools to decide on some key approaches and to share them.

The Ultimate Supply Teachers

We’ve recently teamed up with The Education Network to ensure that supply teachers, cover supervisors, TAs and other support staff get the ultimate preparation for their roles in schools.

Here’s how we do it:

  1. We liaise with client schools to find out about their particular approach to behaviour and learning. Where necessary, we also help them define their routines and share them with their teaching staff.
  2. We then ensure that all Education Network staff are familiar with the school’s policies and procedures before they arrive in the host school.
  3. All staff are supplied with the highest quality behaviour management training so they can deal with any disruption calmly, quickly and in line with school policies.

approved Education Network

Let’s help the people with the hardest job

There are three options for establishing whole-school routines:

  1. Legislate for everything.
  2. Legislate for nothing.
  3. Legislate for some things.

I’d go for the third one. Engage, explain and then define your expectations. Create a simple, easy to understand little document and make it part of the fabric of your school. Tweak and improve when necessary but hold on to it tight. That way, everybody’s job is calmer, easier and more productive.

If you’re looking to get started, try our Teaching and Learning Checklist and Behaviour Management Checklist

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