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!

A Day in the Life of a Self-employed Teacher

Recently I signed up to a blogging challenge and one of the suggestions was to write a blog post about a typical day. That sounds all well and good…..except that I don’t have a typical working day!

Often I have work booked in in advance, which is great.  On those days I get ready for work and I go. Other days I wait to see if the phone rings. Most days it does and off I go to work. Other days it doesn’t and then I work from home.

But, whether the phone rings at the last minute, or the day is booked in advance, the work I do when I get there is the same though – right? Er…no! I teach across a whole range of ages, and teach every subject on the primary curriculum as well as specialising in languages.  One day I could be playing dolls houses and making chocolate crispie cakes in Nursery; the next teaching French to graduates at a local university. The day after that could be a 1960s themed day with Year 6, followed by a day split between Years 1 and 2 doing some Latin. The week could end with a day teaching deaf children.

On those days when I work from home the days are still varied. I maintain my own website and this blog, and also have responsibility for my husband’s website and blog for his tour guiding business. There are always emails that need answering and I sometimes proofread my husband’s translation work for him. I’m part of Team 100WC so I make sure I find time to read the children’s writing and leave comments for them.

I also take my CPD seriously, so a work from home day will include doing my homework for my British Sign Language level 3 course and reading and research for a level 3 course in Dyslexia Awareness, Support and Screening.

Four evenings a week and Saturday mornings I do private tuition for children aged 6-12, but again every lesson is different. Some of the children I work with need help with just maths, some just English and some both. Some have dyslexia and need a different sort of help, and some find the work they do at school easy and need stretching. As if that wasn’t enough variety, I am planning to branch out into 11+ tuition, and language teaching for businesses as well.

So – thanks very much to Nikki Pilkington for the suggestion in her 30 Day Blogging Challenge, but I’m afraid this is about as typical as it gets!

Why Do They Do That?

It’s a question I’ve often asked myself when I’ve read children’s work and seen capital letters in the middle of sentences; lines and lines of writing without a full stop, and then a random one placed for no apparent reason; and exclamation marks in the middle of instructions.  So why do they do that?  For the last two years I have been lucky enough to be contracted for 1-2-1 tuition with a number of children. By working so closely with them I have gained an insight into how their minds work when they are writing, and some of life’s great mysteries have been revealed.

Let’s start with capitalisation in the middle of sentences. What’s that all about then? “Miss told us that names have to start with capital letters,” they told me when I asked. And “apple” is the name of a fruit, and “oak” is the name of a tree. Unfortunately, somewhere down the school they were also told that nouns are naming words (yes, I know, I think I’ve been guilty of that one as well), so now every noun has a capital letter.

How about full stops?  I’ve been that teacher that nags the class “Don’t forget to put full stops at the end of every sentence!” and I know I’m not the only one. When I’ve asked the children I’ve been tutoring what they know about full stops, they happily parrot, “You have to put one at the end of every sentence.” They know. So why don’t they do it? Because it seems, a lot of children have no idea what a sentence is. So they just keep on writing till they have no more ideas, and then put a full stop. Then when they think of a new idea, they start a new sentence.

What about those exclamation marks that appear at the end of sentences such as, “First, take the bread out of the packet! Next, get the butter out of the fridge!”? I was baffled when I first asked a child, whose writing target was to use exclamation marks correctly, when he thought he should use them and he told me that you had to use them every time you were telling somebody how to do something. It seems he thought it was called an explanation mark! And he’s not alone. I’ve tutored 3 children of different ages from different schools who all thought the same things, so it’s obviously a fairly common misconception.

All these things are really easy to correct when you have time to work one-to-one with the children – but not so easy when you have 29 other children needing your attention, because no matter how much you want to you just don’t have time to spend half an hour with one child. That’s why I really love my job.

Why I love being self-employed (Part 6)

This reason follows on from the last, as it’s still about CPD. Two years ago I decided that I would like to learn British Sign Language – partly because I’ve always had an interest in communication, partly because as a language teacher I always enjoy trying out new languages, and partly because I really enjoy working with under-achieving children, and deaf children tend to under-achieve.

Having chosen the course I wanted, I eagerly scanned the list of adult education classes that came through my door, discounted all the ones that were on the far side of Birmingham, and all the ones that were on nights when I did private tuition, and was left with one on at 10am on Mondays. If I was employed full-time in a school I would have had to give up right there, but being self-employed I can choose my own hours, so I signed up for it.

Now, unlike most people I love Monday mornings. I can have a bit of a lie-in, a leisurely breakfast and I miss the morning rush hour. I get to start the week by being a learner not a teacher, so I can remind myself what it’s like to be in the position of the children in my class. And at the end of it all I come away with new skills and qualifications.

Why I love being self-employed (Part 5)

Be honest – put your hand up if you’ve enjoyed every single INSET day you’ve ever had. It’s fine when they’re about something you have an interest in, or if it’s something that’s useful even if a little on the boring side.  Unfortunately sometimes they are neither interesting nor useful, but you have to turn up for them anyway. I remember one particular training day I endured, where we had a singing teacher come in and we had to spend the whole day learning and singing new songs. As someone who was told at the age of seven that with a voice like mine I should never – ever, under any circumstances – open my mouth and sing, I have had nightmares about that particular INSET day ever since.

Being self-employed means that I am now responsible for my own CPD. I no longer have to sit through training courses that bore me – I can choose whatever I want to do. Sometimes it’s something quick and inexpensive, such as reading a teaching magazine for ideas; sometimes it’s something longer term, such as the free courses you can follow through OpenLearn at the Open University. Other times I will splash out on a course that particularly interests me – for example the British Sign Language class that I’m enrolling on for the 3rd year running (completed level 1, now half way through the two-year level 2 course). From September I have booked myself onto a series of courses for teaching children with dyslexia. I’m far more excited about those than I ever have been about an INSET day.

Of course it’s not always easy when I have to fund my CPD myself, but given a choice between paying and choosing myself, or free training chosen on my behalf, I wouldn’t swap the freedom I have.