How to set up as a self-employed supply teacher

Following my interview at the supplyteacher.com, I’ve had an increasing number of people contacting me for information on being self-employed as a supply teacher.  To begin with I replied to people individually, but the volume of emails I receive about it means that  I really can’t do that anymore, so I decided to blog about it instead.

Please bear in mind when reading this that it’s just friendly advice, and should not be taken as legal advice or recommendation. If you’re not sure about anything it really is best to talk to the experts, and your union can probably help with this.

It’s actually quite easy to set up as self-employed supply….

Obviously you have to consider how you will get your CRB/DBS certificate without an agency to do it on your behalf, because you can’t apply for one yourself. The schools you work for may be willing to help, so talk to them first, but if not you will need to make other arrangements. You also need to consider whether you have enough contacts in schools to get the work without an agency to find it for you. If you don’t, or you’re not confident enough to approach schools, then working through an agency may be best for you.

Then you need to decide what you are going to charge. I can’t tell you what to charge, because there are so many factors to take into account, such as whereabout in the country you work, what age-group you will be teaching, whether or not you have to do your own planning, whether you will be booked long-term or just for occasional days….. The best advice I can give you is to talk to the schools you want to work for and come to an agreement with them, making sure that they, and you, are happy.

I’m lucky and I get offered far more work than I can take on and end up having to (reluctantly) turn some down, but I live in a big city, on the borderline of  three different LAs. I wouldn’t recommend giving up a permanent job before you have checked out the demand in your local area. Unfortunately, unless you are really lucky, the work isn’t just going to fall into your lap, so it’s best to get your CV up to date (Nutty at Supply Teaching can help with CV proofreading and advice), decide who you are going to ask for your references, and then start contacting schools to tell them what you can offer them.

Once you are feeling confident that you can get enough work, and you are sure this is what you want to do, you just need to notify HMRC that you want to register as self-employed and you’re good to go! I got my husband’s accountant to sort all that out for me, and it was a while ago so I can’t remember exactly what it involved, but if you contact HMRC I’m sure they will point you in the direction of any forms you have to fill in etc.

I get an accountant to do my end of year tax returns because I work on the basis that I can earn more in the time it would take me to figure it all out than I pay an accountant to do it for me. You need to keep records of how much you invoice, as well as any cash payments you get from tutoring and you also need to make sure you are good at budgeting because of the way HMRC calculates your tax payments…

You pay no tax for the 1st 18 months to give yourself time to get on your feet, but then you have to pay those 18 months plus half what HMRC estimate you will need to pay for the next 12 months in one go. After that each year you pay the remaining half on your earnings for that year, plus half of what they think you’ll need to pay for following year. So you are always paying tax on money you haven’t earned yet…

As far as tutoring goes… you don’t need to have any different qualifications. You just need to decide whether you are going to tutor in your own house, your students’ houses, or hire a room somewhere.  I set up a website to find my clients, but to be honest most of my work comes through word of mouth recommendations.

I’m not qualified to advise people on any insurance they may need. When I first set up I took advice from an insurance company recommended by my teaching union. I’d recommend everyone else to do the same so that you can be confident that you have the right amount of cover for you.

You’ll also need to think about your pension. Once you leave employment and start working for yourself, there’ll be no-one to pay into a pension scheme on your behalf anymore, so it’s up to you to make sure you are setting aside enough yourself to pay into a private scheme.

And that, I think, covers the practical side of it, so all that’s left is for me to wish you the best of luck!

Achievements and Goals

It’s been hard to look back over the whole of 2013 because the last quarter was dominated by two life-changing events: my mom died, and my husband was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. It hasn’t been easy to remember as far back as last January, when everything was ‘normal’, so I’ve given up on the idea of 13 things, and just decided to pick out the things that stand out in my mind.

This time last year I was looking forward to an exciting new experience – spending a week observing/volunteering in a school for deaf children. That week quickly turned into paid work as they were delighted to find a supply teacher who could sign, and I had fallen in love with the school – staff and pupils alike.

During the year I also had opportunities to do more of the work I love. I have been working 1:1 on maths and English skills with pupils who find learning difficult and I have really enjoyed seeing them blossom into confident, motivated individuals.  I was also lucky enough to be invited for the 2nd year running to teach French at a local university. The chance to teach ‘my’ subject to a group of adults who really want to learn and who are prepared to put the effort in to practise in between lessons has been fantastic.

In 2013 I learnt the following:

  • As a teacher I talk too much. This became apparent for obvious reasons at the school for deaf children. I have learnt to talk less and to let the children do more.
  • I have some really supportive friends and they weren’t always the ones I expected them to be. I couldn’t have made it through the last few months without them.
  • I had some really selfish friends who were happy with a friendship as long as it was me supporting them, but who were nowhere to be found when I needed help myself.
  • I am more resilient than I thought. Even though the last few months have been tough, I haven’t fallen apart. I’ve managed to keep working and to support people around me who have needed help to survive their own tragedies.

My proudest achievement from 2013 has been helping a disaffected child discover such a passion for English that he now reads for pleasure and no longer disrupts his English lessons leading to zero detentions for a whole term and a happier school experience.

My biggest wishes for 2014 are to find some inner peace after losing my mom and to find a way for my husband and I to cope with his Aspergers. I’m still finding it difficult to look too far into the future, so my only plan for 2014 so far is to buy a hat. If you’ve read Ros Wilson’s article in Teach Primary you will understand why….if you haven’t I’ll explain in a blog post some time in the future when I have had chance to try it out.

I wish everyone the very best for 2014 and hope that it is your best year ever, both professionally and personally.

Why I love being self-employed (Part 4)

Every teacher loves the special relationship they have with their class. Imagine if you could extend that relationship to the whole school. I’m fortunate enough to have the chance to do that. For the last two years, part of my working week has been teaching during PPA time in a local primary school. It’s hectic as I rotate through nine classes in 1 ½ days, but it means I get to spend time with every child in the school. I’m certainly kept on my toes as I’m in Reception 1 minute, and Year 6 the next, but as I’ve said before – I thrive on variety. I may not be a permanent member of staff, but when I can walk into a school and know the name of every single child, I still get a feeling of belonging.

Why I love being self-employed (Part 3)

They say a change is as good as a rest, and I get that change more often than most. Everyone is different, and for some people having their own class and their own classroom is the best thing in the world, but I thrive on variety.

I love the freedom of moving from class to class and from school to school. I really enjoy borrowing somebody else’s class for a short while, and spending time with lots of different children. I take great delight in seeing how other people set up their classrooms. I like not having to look at the same wall display for half a term. In fact I love seeing the creativity and flair that other teachers bring to their displays and being enthralled by a new one each day.

I’m lucky because I get the chance to teach the same objectives to different children from different backgrounds using ideas planned by different teachers, which gives me a real feel for what works and what doesn’t, so my teaching is constantly improving.

Yes, it’s sometimes difficult to have to break the ice in new staffrooms, but on the whole teachers are a friendly bunch. People often say that in teaching no two days are ever the same, and for me this is especially true.

Why I love being self-employed (Part 2)

How many people get to pick and choose the parts of the job they enjoy and not have to do the rest? Not many, but I’m one of the lucky ones. This year I have spent a big proportion of my week teaching languages which is my biggest passion. I’ve done mostly French, but also some Spanish, German, Latin, BSL, Maori, Italian and Portuguese. I felt really proud when one of my year 1 children sang a Latin solo in the Christmas play!

I’ve also undertaken a lot of 1-2-1 tuition, which I’ve really enjoyed. I feel very privileged to have been able to spend time working closely with under-achieving children in several schools, watching them grow in confidence as they realise that they can do it, and then watching them really take-off when they realise they can do it on their own.

And I’ve had all the fun of working on themed days. This term we had a water themed day (maths: how much water could you save in a year by showering for 1 minute less each day; English: debating whether or not water should be free; geography/PSHE: looking at countries where people don’t have access to clean water) and a 1960s day.

I don’t know yet what September holds, but I’m sure that whatever I do I’m going to love every minute just as much as I have this year.