Phase 2 of the National Agreement brought about a change to teachers' contracts with regards to cover and took effect on 1 September 2004. From then, there has been a limit on the amount of cover for absence that a teacher can be required to undertake. Currently, this is 38 hours per year and to achieve this, schools will need to decide upon a strategy to find new ways of managing cover. This is a statutory requirement and it will be the responsibility of the head teacher to not only determine the appropriate system of cover supervision but also which staff have the necessary training and skills to provide cover.
What is cover supervision?
Cover supervision is one of the strategies that can be used by schools to deliver an "effective and tailored school policy for dealing with cover".
- Cover supervision takes place when there is no active teaching taking place. Pupils continue their learning by carrying out a pre-prepared exercise under supervision.
- The term "cover" refers to any occasion where the teacher normally responsible for teaching a particular class is absent from the classroom during the time that they have been timetabled to teach. One of the aims of the National Agreement on "Raising Standards and Tackling Workload" is to reduce the amount of cover for absent colleagues which teachers at a school are required to carry out. Cover is not an effective use of their time.
Head teachers will need to use their professional judgement to determine the precise responsibilities of staff carrying out cover supervision duties but the role is likely to include the following core elements:
- supervision of work that has been set in accordance with school policy
- managing the behaviour of pupils whilst they are undertaking work to ensure a constructive environment
- responding to any questions from pupils about process and procedure
- dealing with any immediate problems or emergencies according to the school's policies and procedures
- collecting any completed work after the lesson and returning it to the appropriate teacher
- reporting back as appropriate using the school's agreed referral procedures on the behaviour of pupils during the session, and any issues arising
Cover supervision should only be used for short term absence.
The role is a responsible one, involving taking sole charge of a group of pupils. Schools should therefore take care to ensure that staff have the necessary skills and knowledge before being given charge of a class.
Recommendation - Enhanced disclosure should be requested from CRB
Staff undertaking cover supervision should:
- be familiar with full range of school policies - especially health and safety, equality opportunities, disability and SEN
- have the necessary skills to manage safely classroom activities, the physical learning space and resources
- understand and be able to use a wide range of strategies to deal with classroom behaviour as a whole in addition to behavioural needs
Training might include:
- aspects of the TA induction but this should be developed
- units from the Support staff introductory training - behaviour management, Inclusion SEN and disability, risk and reflection.
Taken from the Guidance for Schools on Cover Supervision produced by WAMG
Further guidance is available at http://www.tda.gov.uk/school-leader/effective-staff-deployment.aspx
or in the "Cover resource pack" previously sent into schools. This pack includes details of the adaptations to the 2002 Education Act which gives head teachers the authority to use a more flexible approach to staffing if they wish. The pack is also available on-line here.
Cover Supervisor Training
QLS have delivered Cover Supervision training to a number of interested parties throughout the county both in schools and via central QLS courses. We are able to offer training in schools to suit the school's own needs. Previous training has taken place place over 2 days and has included topics such as:
- Workforce reform and the role of the Cover Supervisor
- Behaviour Management
- Creating the Climate
- Preparing the Learning Environment
- Health and safety issues
The original central training programme was spread out over 5 days but in the light of experience we feel that a 3 day programme is more than adequate and future provision will be offered on this basis.
Who attended the training?
- Teaching Assistants
- ICT technicians
- D and T technicians
- Science technicians
- Learning Mentors
- Cover Supervisors appointed into this new role
Where were they from?
- Primary and Secondary Schools
What were/are their concerns?
- Duality of role causing difficulties in some schools - TAs for example seen as "supporting" in one role but "disciplinarian" in another. Concerns expressed re: the difficulty of maintaining positive relationships with some pupils.
- In some instances the cover supervision role will not necessarily save teachers' time. Support staff such as ICT, DT and Science Technicians when on cover will not be preparing materials, equipment etc. for staff. The creativity in some lessons may be curtailed as a consequence.
- TAs were concerned that this new role would take them away from the children with particular needs. The whole agenda is concerned with raising standards - the cover supervision role may in effect deprive pupils of the additional help that they need to make progress.
What should schools consider?
- The views of the Governors, parents, teachers
- Do parents know that staff other than qualified teachers are covering lessons?
- Who will support pupils who would be receiving support from a TA whilst that TA is providing cover - particular concern for those pupils with physical needs
- Can Support Staff refuse the role without the fear of prejudice?
- How much cover are the Support Staff to be asked to do?
- What about the "ground rules" for Support Staff who cover e.g. dress code?
- How will staff find out about school policy re: behaviour, rewards and sanctions etc.
- Specific school based training/shadowing prior to and during induction to the new role
- Will staff be asked to cover for regular non-contact time?
- A system should be set up to ensure that cover runs smoothly. Who is in charge? How do the Cover Supervisors find out? How do they feed back?
- What happens if no work is set?
- What support systems are in place if things go wrong?
- Who does the marking?
- Employing staff specifically to fulfil cover supervision role?
- Would an Higher Level Teaching Assistant be another option?
The above bullet points could be used as an audit to ensure that systems and processes are in place.
What about pay/job description/contract?
The Cover Supervision role sits within Grade 5 on the new Teaching Assistant Job Profiles and therefore staff should be remunerated according to the rates of pay attached to this level. Look out for guidance from HR.
If you require further information about Cover Supervision training please call Christine Thomson on 01785 276096/07837240089 or e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org
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