London Metropolitan University Research Institutes


Management of supply cover in the teaching profession in Scotland

Funded by:

the Scottish Executive Education Department


November 2002 - August 2003

This project, led by Professor Ian Menter at the University of Glasgow aimed to:

  • develop an understanding of the supply market and why teachers are attracted to the work;
  • document the methods used by Education Authorities and schools to recruit and deploy supply staff, and to support supply teachers when working in school;
  • identify the effect of different recruitment and deployment methods on Education Authorities, schools and supply teachers by examining, for example, the impact on the ability to provide cover when needed, and supply teachersí job satisfaction;
  • make recommendations for good practice in the management of supply cover at the Education Authority and school level.

The research design included surveys of samples of schools and supply teachers, and a questionnaire sent to all 32 Education Authorities in Scotland, as well as interviews with Education Authority staff, school staff and supply teachers, and with other relevant bodies such as GTC Scotland, teacher unions, and HMI. In addition a series of focus groups were held with three panels of supply teachers.

The report identified an overall shortage of supply teachers; many schools reported devoting considerable time to accessing supply cover with limited success. The supply teachers fell into three main groups: those at the start of their careers who had not yet obtained a permanent post; those combining supply teaching with another activity such as child care; and those approaching retirement or already drawing their pensions. While deployment was either centrally managed by the education authority, or locally managed by schools, in most cases schools develop their ëowní lists of local supply teachers who they contacted in the first instance. This had the advantage that supply teacher were generally familiar with the school and pupils, but tended to disadvantage schools in challenging circumstances, which were less able to establish their own lists. Support systems for supply teachers were limited, and often entirely lacking, both in terms of induction and provision of information by schools to new supply teachers, and opportunities for professional development. The current system had negative effects on the quality of education, and particularly on those supply teachers in the early stages of their careers.


IPSE project staff:

Merryn Hutchings
Jacinta Dalgety


Merryn Hutchings -

Professor Ian Menter
Faculty of Education
University of Glasgow
11 Eldon St
G3 6NH


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