When it comes to relief teaching, you have an important choice to make. Do you nominate yourself at every school or do you select just a few? Let me outline what the alternatives are and what you should consider.
What drives relief teaching vacancies?
Leave Generated Relief Teaching positions.
Education departments from all state have very generous leave provisions for staff. From maternity leave, paternity leave, family leave, sick leave, stress leave, leave without pay – leave for this and that. While a staff member is on approved leave there is the expectation that a position will be available for when they return. Hence a contract or relief teaching position opens up. A relief teacher is needed – YOU (or I should say US!).
What makes this terribly unfair to the relief teacher is that sometimes a staff member can be away for an extended period of time. Take maternity leave for example. Teachers can take 7 years for maternity leave for the birth of EACH child. If sometime during the leave period, the teacher has another child the leave can be extended for another 7 years
So a relief teacher is needed to fill the vacancy held for that staff member for when he/she returns. However, the relief teacher may not be made permanent because a vacancy must be held for the teacher on leave. I am not being critical. It just is a generous leave provision.
Sometimes the HR department accepts the risk and fills the vacancy. Often the person relief teaching IN THAT POSITION may be offered a permanent job. There is normally a vacancy caused by natural attrition during that time anyway so when the teacher on leave returns there is a job available.
Professional Development Generated Relief Teaching Vacancies.
PD funds for schools come and go. Sometime it is a FEAST. Sometimes it is a FAMINE. The pendulum swings between those two. When PD is around there is a great demand for relief teachers. Sometimes a school might take their whole staff out.
I have been in a situation where our whole district was asked to do PD at the same time. Relief teaching positions were critically short. The search was far and wide to find suitable relief teachers.
Schools try to spread these out but generally there are more PD opportunities in the first half of the school year. Not always, but usually.
Special Project Generated Relief Teaching Vacancies
The government believes that you throw money at a problem to solve it. There have been many projects over the years and there will be many more in the future, such is the government mentality. So currently schools receive special funding for NAPLAN, Project 600, Learning Support, Kids in Care. Each of these projects has a staffing component so relief teaching vacancies occur. I have been lucky enough to be involved in many of these short-term projects which makes a change from days in the classroom.
Relief Teaching Decisions.
You can of course make no decision and just go with the flow and accept anything and everything that is offered.
However, unless you keep your relief teaching resources in a semi-trailer, you probably need to decide your relief teaching parameters.
Relief Teaching at Select Schools
Relief Teaching is in big demand in some schools. There are many areas, like where I live, where there are simply not enough relief teachers to fill the relief teaching vacancies. So there are many relief teachers who select the school for which they will be available and reject others. If you limit your availability, there are advantages and disadvantages you need to consider.
- Schools usually have a loyalty to relief teachers who are loyal to their school. Relief teachers who select only one or two schools might find they are offered relief teaching vacancies FIRST. Most of the time they will receive a personal call from school even when school use agencies. ( Of course all schools should be using ClassCover any way You are registered on ClassCover aren’t you?)
- You develop a relationship with the kids, the teachers, the staff and often times the parents. I do 90% of my relief teaching in the one school – in fact I do 90% of my relief teaching in 4 of the classes in that one school. If you go down this path you get to know the kids and there is a consistency when you are there.
- Kids challenge relief teachers who visit one day and are never seen again. They are much less likely to challenge a relief teacher if they know YOU will be back.
- Schools who have special funding for special projects (as mentioned above) like to select from relief teachers they know can do the job. If you happen to be that person, well lucky you. These short-term continuous contracts run the course of their budget, but often, another opportunities arises.
- If you select schools, you could select those with whom you feel an affiliation. This could include an affinity with the school culture, the school ethos, the type of principal, the teachers on staff. You can select anything which makes you more comfortable at those schools. There is nothing worse than being at an open plan school if your preference is for single classrooms.
- You could get less work. Teachers take on an average of 7.5 days off each year. They are issue with 10 sick days per year. Obviously some take considerably more. But is you work at 7.5 days per year you can do a quick calculation on the days available. In my case, I do relief teaching for 8 class x 7.5 = 60 days per year. More than I want but is it more than you want. If so then you need to widen your base and select more schools.
- You could well select a school where NO vacancies occur. That would be bad luck. If you are after a full time job you NEED some one to leave. Some school have a really high retention of staff, so there is almost not vacancies. That is OK if you just want relief teaching but not good if you want a full time teaching job.
- This strategy can lead to FEAST or FAMINE. Schools in the same area generally need relief teachers at the same time. PD happens at the same time. Illness (particularly ‘flu) happens at the same time.
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