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  • Helen Woodward

The game changer in teacher supply coming to Manchester, UK.




A year ago, Charlie Taylor (previously my boss and CEO of the Training and Development Agency, DfE) asked if I had time for coffee. He wanted to show me a new product by Zen Educate, a software startup company who have developed an online teacher supply platform. It’s always good to catch up with Charlie, and Zed Educate’s work was impressive. The CEO, Slava Kremerman, was intrigued by a family member's experience of working for a supply agency. Astonished by the slow and clunky process of waiting for morning phone calls, Slava and the team created a software solution. The online platform enables work requests to be sent any time directly to the teacher, who can respond using a phone App having seen the school profile and location with the request.


But why do teachers and teaching assistants opt for supply work? There are some myths and prejudices we need to debunk here.


Most of us are going to be in the workplace until we’re in our mid 70s. During the 50 plus years we’re economically active there will be times when we need a change, a rest or perhaps some flexibility. We may want to pursue further study, a hobby, a longed-for ambition, care for a loved one or attend to our own health. These are all valid, worthwhile pursuits. Importantly, we have choices.


When I completed my teacher training in 1992 I was delighted. I already had 6 years’ experience working with looked after children in residential family group homes. I trained to teach in Further Education; I had studied early years childcare and education at college and wanted to teach Early Childhood Studies. I worked part time in four FE colleges in the North West before landing my first permanent and full-time post. I was overjoyed!


My joy was short lived. Worse than that, in a few short weeks I had the gut wrenchingly awful knowledge that I should have followed my instincts (alerted on the interview day) and turned the job down. The lure of a full-time permanent post had won over intuition. The part-time colleague whose application was unsuccessful made a complaint about the post being advertised outside of the organisation. Every time I entered the department staff room silence fell. If I asked a question I was met with, ‘You can’t expect to come here and be trained.’ Dreadful. I was young, I tried hard and stuck out an unhappy 2 years. The students were great, I loved the teaching, and found colleagues in another staff room with whom to build collegiate relationships. I secured another post with less travelling and better pay, and a respectable length of tenure on my CV. I took with me the invaluable learning of how to never treat other people.


I often talk with teachers who have a similar story and are ready to give up their hard-won career. I always suggest trying another school rather than leaving the profession based on one disappointing experience. Supply work can bring new opportunities, a fresh perspective and flexibility. Being able to manage your diary and accept the work you want can be great. There is of course uncertainty to balance with priorities. C’est la vie. Work and life are a mixture of facts, possibilities and uncertainty. Awareness and effective navigating of this is a life-long endeavour.


So why work as a supply teacher with Zen Educate?


The online platform puts you in charge of your work commitments enabling you to manage your time

You’ll join a vibrant community of teachers who are keen to share and learn

You gain a breadth of experience in different school settings, some of which lead to permanent roles.

I’m delighted to be working with the Zen Educate team as they develop this groundbreaking work. We’re currently looking for staff in London and Manchester. If you’re thinking of a change, returning to teaching from time away or overseas, or interested in the cost savings schools are enjoying through using our online platform we’d love to hear from you.



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