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Hi to all nursery/pre school practitioners or those of you who work in a school.

 

I have a question (well 2 questions really) relating to supply cover for staff absence.

 

Q.1) What is your experience of using agencies to provide supply cover?

Q.2) What is your experience of working for an agency to provide supply cover?

 

 

I would welcome as many answers as possible- the good, bad and ugly. I realise that not everyone will have experienced this before but am trying to gain a good picture from both sides of the table if you know what I mean - advantages and disadvantages.

Thanks

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I've both used staff from agencies and I am presently working as agency staff (two different London based agencies)

 

The staff I have used in the past have been of varying proficiency, the trick is to request those staff you have found fit in with the ethos of your setting, however, none of the agency staff have been 'bad'.

 

The agency I work with interviewed me and checked my qualifications. Even though I had a fairly new CRB, I had to pay for a new one. The agency staff I am often working alongside at present are generally excellent.

I've mainly enjoyed the settings I have worked in, and have worked in both 'outstanding' settings and those that are really not so good. However, I'm often only seeing a 'snap shot' of each setting. I've been doing agency work for 16 months whilst I search for premises in which to open my own nursery alongside a previous colleague.

 

I often have regular bookings on certain days each week for varying periods of time. Generally, there is plenty of work.

 

If you need any more specific information, just ask.

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I worked for an agency for 3 years.

It ws a dedicated early years agency, not anything else like cooks, secretaries, cleaners etc.

I was interviewed and got my first job within days. they paid for the CRB and provided a polo shirt and sweatshirt.

At the start I used to read the Ofsted reports online but gave up because to be honest they didnt really reflect the setting I saw.

Some places were lovely, some I was glad to leave.

Some were good at remembering you existed while at one I went without lunch because no-one told me to go and I just kept expecting to be told next, no next, no...oh well!

Some managers explained the role they expected of you, others left you to it. Afetr a few months you got to know the questions to ask though.

Initially I liked the freedom and the lack of overall responsibility but after a year or so I missed paperwork and having a say in planning and general room layout etc. especially in settings where I was long term.

I liked being able to say what days I was available and what hours. After I'd been there a while I used to request only preschool too, babies were never my thing.

I liked poking into other peoples cupboards and seeing how practice differed from place to place.

I hated being called 'the agency' and it was always obvious when 'the agency' were doing the jobs regular staff didnt want to do, like playing outside in the rain.

The other agency staff were mostly good, better than the regular staff in a lot of cases, possibly because we got to see a lot more practice and had to keep abreast of things.

Settings I went to tended to use the same agency and ask for the same staff. My friend had a list of agencies to phone in order of preference.

It gave me a much more rounded view of early years, having spent all my training and been manager of a playgroup previously. Darn scared the first time I had to make the babies feeds up, having your own babies doesnt mean that 15 years later you'll be a dab hand at bottles!

I used to go into any new setting, keep my head down, do my job and work out the politics, like could I use any mug in the staff room or was there ownership, same with the milk, tea and coffee. I used to take my own coffee and cup.

Edited by Rea
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I've had mixed experiences when a replacement nursery nurse has been required. The school uses one or two agencies but some of the people they have sent have been atrocious and in one case downright dangerous in my opinion (having no regard for the children's safety outside). I have always made it clear to the school that they should NOT allow them to cover nursery again where this has been the case. Occasionally we have had lovely capable people but it is always with some trepidation that I discover I have a supply nursery nurse on a day.

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Thanks for sharing your experiences, much appreciated. Sorry folks more questions .....

In your experiences as agency workers...

 

1)How much flexibility do you have as an agency worker in saying yes or no? and are you informed of the place details before committing to anything - or are you given just the bare minimum of detail?

 

2) What would happen if you knew after a very short time in a setting you really didn't like the place? Can you pull out?

 

3) Do the nurseries/school staff treat you like 2nd class citizens (even though you may have higher qualification and more experience than regular staff) or are you truly valued?

 

4)In long term placements are you involved in things like planning meetings?

 

5)How do you access and keep up to date with training?

 

6) Do you ever have stuff to do at home in relation to your supply work?

 

Thanks

x

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1. I had lots of flexibility, said no to certain days, holidays off and odd days for various things, but you need to bear in mind if you say no a lot they might not phone you. I used to get early morning phone calls and I could say yes or no and then I’d tell them how soon I could get there.

 

2. If I really didn’t like somewhere I usually plodded on especially if I knew it was only for a week or so. Future calls to go to somewhere I didnt like could be refused. There was one place I didn’t like and I told the agency who then sent out someone else who said to me in the playground ‘you don’t like it here do you? I’ve been sent to see if I can take over for you, but I don’t like it either so I’m not going to’. I ended up staying 12 months. It was possible to pull out though. It was useful chatting to other agency about places we'd been to or were going to. One place told me I'd cut the fruit wrong and another lady who'd been there was told the same, there is a right and wrong way to cut fruit.

 

3. The treatment varied from place to place. Most gave you a run down off the emergency exits, staff room, loo’s, introduced you to other staff, told you what they wanted you to do. Others didn’t. Some were friendly some weren’t. Staff who held lower qualifications were mostly good, listening, taking advice, following your lead, others said ‘we don’t do it like that’. Higher qualified staff were mostly ok. Some let you get on with it, some shadowed you and gave instructyion the whole day. Human nature has a lot to do with it.

 

4. I was never involved in planning meetings but could share ideas with the room leaders and other staff if asked and if the relationship was there. I was at one place for 18 months, another for a year but still no official input.

 

5.Training was impossible. Birmingham council didn’t provide training unless you were staff although I did do a food hygiene day with one nursery who had a training provider come into the setting, to make up numbers. I called our training team and was told even by paying I wouldn’t be bale to go on any of their courses. When I said that meant the agency staff in the city wouldn’t be up to date on things the man said ‘that’s your choice’.

 

6. I never had anything to do officially, but I would occasionally help staff with things if I had a good working relationship with them.

Edited by Rea
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1. I had lots of flexibility, said no to certain days, holidays off and odd days for various things, but you need to bear in mind if you say no a lot they might not phone you. I used to get early morning phone calls and I could say yes or no and then I’d tell them how soon I could get there.

 

2. If I really didn’t like somewhere I usually plodded on especially if I knew it was only for a week or so. Future calls to go to somewhere I didnt like could be refused. There was one place I didn’t like and I told the agency who then sent out someone else who said to me in the playground ‘you don’t like it here do you? I’ve been sent to see if I can take over for you, but I don’t like it either so I’m not going to’. I ended up staying 12 months. It was possible to pull out though. It was useful chatting to other agency about places we'd been to or were going to. One place told me I'd cut the fruit wrong and another lady who'd been there was told the same, there is a right and wrong way to cut fruit.

 

3. The treatment varied from place to place. Most gave you a run down off the emergency exits, staff room, loo’s, introduced you to other staff, told you what they wanted you to do. Others didn’t. Some were friendly some weren’t. Staff who held lower qualifications were mostly good, listening, taking advice, following your lead, others said ‘we don’t do it like that’. Higher qualified staff were mostly ok. Some let you get on with it, some shadowed you and gave instructyion the whole day. Human nature has a lot to do with it.

 

4. I was never involved in planning meetings but could share ideas with the room leaders and other staff if asked and if the relationship was there. I was at one place for 18 months, another for a year but still no official input.

 

5.Training was impossible. Birmingham council didn’t provide training unless you were staff although I did do a food hygiene day with one nursery who had a training provider come into the setting, to make up numbers. I called our training team and was told even by paying I wouldn’t be bale to go on any of their courses. When I said that meant the agency staff in the city wouldn’t be up to date on things the man said ‘that’s your choice’.

 

6. I never had anything to do officially, but I would occasionally help staff with things if I had a good working relationship with them.

WOW Rea - thanks for your speedy reply - feel much better informed now.

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Are you thinking of doing supply?

I can recommend it so long as you are aware there can be pitfalls. You might not get work being one of them, but in my experience agencies are crying out for staff.

A one off cover day was ok, longer term was ok too. I got to know which settings I liked and which ones had staff I couldnt relate to. But that was ok, I just did the job and went home, I didnt get involved in the gossip. It could be frustrating when obs werent considered in planning or anecdotal evidence was ignored but I never went anywhere that put the children at risk so I let those moments go.

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I can more or less echo Rea's reply. Except, I did once accept a long term booking before ever having been in the nursery, I went on the first day and felt the practice was so dismal that I apologised, but told the agency I could not work there another day! they respected my feelings. There are about 3 settings that I've said I do not want to work in for similar reasons, I can bear staff that ignore me, or are even rude to me, but not when it involves the children.

 

Never been offered/able to join in with any training. my first aid has now lapsed. I am currently funding my own foundation degree and keep as up to date as I can through Nursery World and this forum, or book any free training I can find. Also in the middle of forest school training.

 

I try to read as much information as I can from the settings walls - no one has ever shown me any policies or procedures.

 

I sometimes do agency work for a fantastic children's centre nursery school, and they always involve agency staff in mini staff meetings before and after each day.

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Wow I cannot believe that policies and procedures are not high on setting's priority list to show new staff.

 

Do the agencies provide any training opportunities?

 

Thanks everyone for being honest. No doubt I shall have more questions arising soon..............

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I wasnt shown policies either and the only proceedure I was told was fire meeting point. I was at one nursery for 12 months everyday and never did a fire drill.

My agency didnt do training but I dont know about others, although I have a feeling just as I was about to leave they put out a questionaire to nurseries and training might have been on there as something they wanted the agency staff to be upto date with. I can check that through my friend who also has her own agency so if you need answers from that point of view I'll ask that too.

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I wasnt shown policies either and the only proceedure I was told was fire meeting point. I was at one nursery for 12 months everyday and never did a fire drill.

My agency didnt do training but I dont know about others, although I have a feeling just as I was about to leave they put out a questionaire to nurseries and training might have been on there as something they wanted the agency staff to be upto date with. I can check that through my friend who also has her own agency so if you need answers from that point of view I'll ask that too.

 

Thanks Rea much appreciated.

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