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How to Impress when Trialling for Relief Teacher Jobs

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  • casual relief teacher jobs
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  • relief teacher jobs
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We are approaching the mid-point of the academic year and many schools are still catching up on lost learning due to COVID. At the same time, staff are regularly testing positive and needing to self-isolate for several days. This is a really tricky period for schools. As a result, the demand for primary relief teacher jobs is soaring.

Supply Teacher jobsA casual relief teacher covering a class in grade 2


If you’ve spent some time out of the classroom and are considering a return, now is a perfect time to consider a new role! Alternatively, you may be seeking a fresh new primary teaching challenge with a better work-life balance. Relief teacher and school tutor roles offer fantastic flexibility without losing the satisfaction of doing what you do best – supporting student learning.

What is a relief teacher?

Relief teachers cover the classes in case of absences of permanent teachers due to training, release time, or illness. Usually, the planning and resources are provided for relief teachers to follow. The responsibilities of relief teachers include the safeguarding of children and ensuring that learning progress is made and communicated with the regular teacher.

We’ll explore the benefits of day-to-day primary relief and intervention teacher roles in another post.  With relief teacher roles you are likely to be provided with lesson plans to follow with the aim of helping students achieve maximum progress in that time. Nonetheless, our top 5 relief teacher tips below provide useful advice to ensure you succeed in your new role:

How to Impress When Trialling Relief Teacher Jobs:

1. Arrive Bright & Early

Aim to arrive in the classroom in good time so that you can look over the cover work before the class arrives – sometime between 7:00 and 7:30 ideally. This allows you to check that there is some cover work, but also to do a number of important things: Read over the instructions and familiarise yourself with any PowerPoints and resources. Ask questions of other staff members if there is something you don’t understand. Familiarise yourself with the layout of the classroom – are there any positive behaviour initiatives in place that you can use to set expectations, e.g. ‘good to be green’ or house point tally boards? Ensure that the classroom has appropriate resources e.g. textbooks, stationery, etc., for the work set.

These actions ensure that you can focus on greeting students and showing that you are in control

Most lesson plans will have a learning objective and success criteria. Look at these first and make sure you’re confident that your delivery of the lesson will enable all children to meet or exceed the objective. Don’t be afraid to make some minor tweaks to a lesson as long as the learning focus remains.

e.g. ‘Ah, the LO is ‘To be able to use similes.’ I’ve got a brilliant starter activity I’ve used with year 3 before, I’ll use it!’ 

2. Focus on Core Subject Skills

Baring in mind that we are very much in the SATs build-up, there is going to be a strong focus on core subject skills (Reading, Writing & Mathematics). If you are tasked with supporting students from a year group you are unfamiliar with, brush up on their AREs (Age Related Expectations.) A quick google of the core subject and year group will give you a list of learning objectives for example, searching ‘Year 4 Writing Age-Related Expectations’ includes:

Year 4 – Writing – Punctuation

  • I can use inverted commas and other punctuation to indicate direct speech.

  • I can use apostrophes to mark plural possession.

  • I’m able to use commas after fronted adverbials.

The more you familiarise yourself with the AREs and associated Learning Objectives, the better equipped you’ll be to support students at an age-appropriate level. Being able to talk about success stories and strategies you’ve used to build core subject skills will help you stand out during the interview or trial day stages too!

3. Maintain Strong Lesson Starts

You should always be prepared to give the students a starter task, a ‘Do Now’, activity to get them working straight away. This is just as important for whole-class relief lessons and small group intervention sessions.

Have a bank up your sleeve in case one isn’t prepared for you. Of course, this does not have to be directly linked to the learning in the lesson but reinforces your expectations of behaviour and engagement with learning. Asking students to create anagrams of keywords, finding the keyword with the highest Scrabble score or even just writing down 5 things they learnt the last lesson on a post-it are all viable options that give both you and the students five minutes of breathing space to settle into the lesson. Give the students a number and challenge them to come up with as many ways as possible to arrive at that number.

Whilst students are busy with the starter, you can be reinforcing positive behaviour and evaluate the suitability of the cover work for the class. If you feel it may not be up to scratch, it’s time to get creative…


4. Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Creativity in Relief Teacher Jobs

Your role is to ensure students are making progress within the lesson, but sometimes there is simply not enough cover work left. Let’s face it, the most engaging and exciting tasks are rarely left for relief teachers sadly! So, this is where your own professional judgement, experience, imagination and creativity make you a stand out relief teacher. Here are some key factors to look out for and think about when delivering a cover lesson:

Be Crystal Clear

Ensure that instructions for activities are repeated verbally and visually displayed clearly. Asking students to repeat the instructions back to you can help check their understanding.

Break Down Learning

Make sure that work is split up into 5-10minute chunks, any longer and students can become unfocused. A good example of this is textbook work, splitting the pages into paragraphs and their accompanying tasks.

Time Check

If you give them half an hour for a task that they can do in five minutes, they’ll still manage to stretch it out for the whole 30minutes. Include time limits for each activity as part of the ‘chunked up learning’ approach.

Follow Up

If students know their work isn’t going to be checked, they will have little motivation to complete tasks. Accountability is key! Let students know that there will be some form for self- or peer-assessment, or the work will be marked by you or their usual class teacher. This provides motivation to complete the work set.

Extra, Extra

Sometimes the cover work just doesn’t fill the lesson time. In this case, you need to create your own activity. You shouldn’t introduce new learning but should instead use the extra time to reinforce their knowledge. Can they summarise the lesson in 5 paragraphs, then in 5 sentences and then in only 5 words? Can students create a diagram to remember the keywords from the lesson? Why not get students to write questions with which they can test each other with? These are great options for revising content at the end of a lesson without resorting to ‘making a poster’.

Make sure you’re thinking about all of these things during lessons. When trialling for relief teacher jobs, showing you have this level of adaptability will really help!

Thank you for reading our advice on how to impress on relief teacher jobs…

We hope you’ve found this post on intervention teacher and relief teacher tips helpful. Check out our current vacancies if you’re looking for primary relief teacher jobs or intervention teacher jobs.

If you’d like to have a chat with a friendly consultant, then register your interest and we’ll be in touch!