What is the difference between a cover supervisor and a supply teacher?


Staff in temporary roles form a vital part of the education system, with both supply teachers and cover supervisors required in the classroom.

And while many similarities exist between the two roles, in that they both deliver lessons and control pupil behaviour, there are also fundamental differences.

Fundamentally, a cover supervisor will oversee pupils as they complete pre-set tasks from an absent teacher, with no active teaching taking place.

A supply teacher on the other hand will have greater responsibility, as they will need to plan lessons, deliver them, mark the work and report back to the member of staff who is absent.

But to really understand the differences between the two roles, it’s necessary to look at what each entails, as we’ve done here.

Cover supervisors

Mainly found in secondary schools, a cover supervisor will oversee a period of short-term absence by the main teacher of a class, such as if they are ill or undertaking professional development.

A key element is that these roles should not require any lesson planning or marking, as those responsibilities would fall on the regular members of teaching staff.

The role is unqualified, although many staff in cover supervisor roles have a degree of previous classroom experience, perhaps as a teaching assistant.

An understanding of behaviour management processes is often required to maintain control in the classroom, while they will also be expected to answer any questions from pupils about the work they need to complete.

In instances where an absence is longer term, a school should turn to a supply teacher.

Supply teachers

Tens of thousands of supply teachers work in roles across England, providing essential cover when teachers are away for days, weeks or even longer.

It provides an opportunity for individuals to work in varying schools, systems and with pupils of different age ranges.

At a primary level, a supply teacher will be expected to cover an array of subject, while at secondary level they may cover one subject but with different classes.

Supply teaching is useful for those that are just returning from a career break or who are new to the UK’s education system.

The major difference from being a cover supervisor and a supply teacher relates to the work involved – as the complete package of lesson planning through to delivery and marking must be done by a supply teacher.

In essence, therefore, a supply teacher has a very similar role to a main teacher, with the exception that they are at a school for a reduced time.

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