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A day in the life - 15-03-2020 - - 0 comments
Becoming a cover supervisor - Shaik Ahmed

Unless you work in education, it’s unlikely you’ll have any idea of what a cover supervisor is. But it’s likely that you may have been taught by a cover supervisor at some point during your time at school.

When Shaik joined us back in March 2018, he wasn’t familiar with the role either but he has gone on to become one of our most valuable cover supervisors. So, who better than to tell you about being a cover supervisor and what it entails?

1. What was your background and experience before joining Smile?

 I graduated from Royal Holloway University of London in 2000 with a degree in Music. After this, I undertook many Music roles but not necessarily within a school setting. I then worked in and briefly built my own school in Angola so already had some understanding of the education sector and experience working with children. Before joining Smile, I had worked with a few different agencies which gave me a taste for life inside the classroom so, I knew that this was something I wanted to continue doing.

2. When did you start your journey with Smile?

I first joined Smile in March of 2018 after a friend, Sonia Clarke, told me they were really good. Finding a good education recruitment agency isn’t always easy so knowing that Smile had been recommended by someone I trusted made all the difference. It’s not just Sonia and me that are singing their praises though, take a look at all the great Google reviews they have! 

3. What were your first impressions of Smile as an agency?

First impressions are key and Smile sure did make a great one. At the time they were based at No.1 Victoria Square-based, however, they’ve since moved The Colmore Building and while I haven’t visited yet, I’m told it’s even nicer! On the day of my registration, I met with both Noreen and a member of the admin team (although their name escapes me - sorry!). The whole process was very professional and well organised.

4. Were the potential work opportunities explained to you in-depth?

From my previous experience with other agencies and in Angola I already had some idea of what I was capable of and the roles I would like to do. There is always work to be done in the education sector so if you are willing and able there will be a place for you! Noreen was very easy to talk to and assured me that she would be able to offer me work as soon as my file was made compliant e.g. my DBS check was clear and my references had come back, etc.

5. How did you feel upon leaving the interview with Noreen? 

Upon leaving the interview with Noreen, I felt great. It was like a weight had lifted off my shoulders. Up until this point things had been quite stressful as we were in the process of emigrating. It was really important to me that I had a viable work option so could keep my family together and establish a life in the UK and Smile made that possible.

6. Did you find the registration process straightforward?

The actual registration (meeting with Noreen and the admin team) was very straightforward but, I did have some difficulties completing the compliance. Smile are an APSCo Compliance+ accredited company which mean that they go beyond the statutory safeguarding standards. As I had been abroad for quite some time, this wasn’t an easy task. However, for graduates who have lived and studied here all their life, I can imagine it’s much easier! 

The toughest part of the process was getting references. Smile requires at least two in order to make you compliant and offer you work. For most graduates, this could be their course tutor and current manager from a part-time job. However, for me, this meant getting in contact with the owners of the school I’d worked at previously in Angola. It turns out, however, that the only person remaining in the business, and therefore able to sign the documents, was a very successful recording and performing artist and he was in the middle of recording his latest album and getting access to him was very difficult. Needless to say, it was an impossible task. Thankfully, Smile was very understanding and found an alternative route to make me fully compliant for work.

7. Tell us a little bit about your first day as a Cover Supervisor?

Since working with Smile I have worked in that many different schools, it is hard to remember my first day. To jog my memory I have looked back at my old payslips and had a search on Google Maps. My first day working for Smile was at King Solomon Business School in Aston. I remember the secretary was playing some sweet gospel music as I walked in and a sense of great calm in the building, which is unusual in the secondary sector. I also remember the pupils being very well behaved and the staff seemed pleased to have someone confident.

8. Was Smile able to find you regular consistent work thereafter?

I have only had one day without work since joining Smile. On that day I was offered work by another agency, but the consultant was quite rude to me and I declined their offer. So, if like me, you are good at what you do, you’ll never have to worry about being out of work.

9. What is your current role with Smile? What are you doing now?

 My current role with Smile is as Cover Supervisor long term at Holyhead School in Handsworth. I am supporting all year groups and covering a range of classes following the long-term absence of the current teacher.

10. What do you enjoy most about being a Cover Supervisor with Smile Education?

I enjoy the freedom that comes with working for an education recruitment agency as I am able to pick the days which I am able and unable to work. In the future, I am planning on building my own business and when it is ready I plan to cut back on my cover supervisor commitments. Although I have to confess, I love the school environment and would still spend a day or two a week working as a cover supervisor just to keep me on my toes!

11. What do you enjoy least about being Cover Supervisor with Smile Education?

Kids are kids and at times they can be pretty brutal. To survive as a cover supervisor you have to have a thick skin. However, it’s important to remember that not everyone class or student is like this and that every school will have a behaviour policy in place to help you manage difficult pupils.

12. What three personality traits do you think a good Cover Supervisor should possess?

  • Infinite patience 

  • A massive sense of humour

  • The ability to work the room like a Las Vegas showperson, the politcal savvy of any Prime Minister and a thousand yard stare that turns a young person into stone before they throw that pencil across the room. 

13. If you could give a new Cover Supervisor one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Get fit. You need to be physically, mentally and spiritually ready for school. You might end up with a really nice class, but you may also be faced with a class that is difficult. You need to be able to stand strong in the face of adversity and you can only do that if you are fit. I go for long walks, ride a bicycle and dance as often as possible. I also eat well, stretch in the mornings and make sure I get a coffee before school. 

So, there you have it all your questions about being a cover supervisor answered by an actual cover supervisor. To find out more about being a cover supervisor with Smile Education or our cover supervisor training programme, get in touch

If, after reading Shaik’s blog, you’d like to become a cover supervisor yourself, then submit your CV now or head to our jobs page to take a look at our latest cover supervisor roles.


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