Getting a Relief Teaching Job – Have you considered this?

Relief Teaching

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 have critical decisions to determine what type of relief teacher you want to be.

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

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.
Teaching is about relationships. You need to build relationships in your schools.
    • 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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(12) comments


Hi Bob,
Great article!
I myself decided as a casual teacher to register with 5 schools to spread the net
fairly wide!
Last year I received calls (work) from all schools some more than others and sometimes I had to refuse work from one school because I had gotten calls from 2/3 other schools.
I always` built up` a positive relationship within the school from reception/school managers/principals /gardening/cleaners/teaching staff and of course the students.
We are ALL part of an EDUCATIONal TEAM.
I am finding this year (TERM ONE) that maybe it would be better to concentrate on just 0ne or two schools (LOYALTY) and get asked back more to those!We are
Not sure yet!
Will let you know as the year progresses !
Hope this helps other relief teachers!


    Good point Al, as always. Schools hate it when relief teachers say, “No thank you!” I know it can not be avoided but if you take on too many schools, you are obviously going to say NO more often.


Hi Bob
Your website has been really interesting and I’m sure
that a lot of the advice will be helpful. I’m returning to teaching after 8 years in the public sector (mostly working with schools ) in Term 2. I have 6 years classroom experience in UK.
I’m down south in Adelaide- although ultimately I want to be loyal to a core group of 3-4 schools, I have targeted 15 that I am marketing my services to. And a range of schools. Being a humanities specialist but experience and happy to teach other subjects I am worried about how competitive the market is/will be. Eg one local high achieving secondary school told me they have 100 teachers on their register. Others seem not quite as popular but it still seems like here in metro Adelaide it’s pretty saturated.
Do you or does anybody have any advice?
Thanks for reading this far. Keep up the brilliant site.


    Hi DC,

    I am sure I have responded to this message before, but I can’t find the response. Maybe I was just dreaming.

    I am not sure about the saturation level of Adelaide, but I guess it is like most capital cities where a lot of relief teachers are available. It is a different issue when you move out of the capital cities. Maybe an Adelaide based relief teacher might let us know.

    Your expertise should put you in good stead. The issue is that you have to market yourself aggressively if the pool is large.

    In your resume include all the things that make you different to the others. Perhaps you can take a choir, play chess, coach a sports team or run a gifted program in some area. If there is 100 in the register, I would make personal visits to the school rather than post your resume. Make an appointment to see the boss. In about a weeks time make an appointment to see the DP. Make certain you meet the person who makes the relief teaching vacancy phone calls. That might be the Admin Officer.

    If you think this is the school for you, let them know you are committed and will only be committed to them.

    Good luck and I hope some of SA members take up the challenge and offer some advice.



Hi! My name is Alejandra and I am currently studying a MA in TESOL. I am a home licensed teacher from Argentina, and I am secialized in language teaching (Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and TESOL). I would like to know the requirements for registering for RELIEF TEACHER in Brisbane, QLD. THANKS.


    Hi Alejandra,

    Your first point of call is to Qld College of Teachers at who will access your qualification and provide you approval to teach in Queensland. They will accord you provisional status and issue you with a letter to approving relief teaching in Queensland.

    Once that is approved you need complete a preference list of schools where you would like to teacher. Joining ClassCover at will enable you to place your profile and resume to a wider number of schools.

    Let me know if I can be of further help.



Hi Bob. Thanks for your advice. I am now getting a good supply of work in the schools where I want. I told them that I am making myself available only to their schools and they seemed to appreciate it. I am hoping to get some contract work soon.


Hi Bob

Thanks so much for your advice. I’ve just received my teacher registration & authority to teach. In the next few weeks I look forward to putting your tips into practice. Ill target schools with customised cover letters etc. (which I have drafted) And I’m casting my net establishing key contacts, identifying ‘relief gatekeepers’ etc
Jason – it’s great to hear that you’re doing well from targeted marketing.
Hopefully these strategies will put me in good stead for Term 2. Otherwise I’ll then expand the marketing to the next 20 schools!


    Well done Dan.


      Cheers Bob. Of course if it’s successful or not I will follow up. Cliche but sharing knowledge through site such as this is so important.


Good idea. What about private school like the catholic schools. Do they work the same way?


    To be truthful Beth I have never worked in the private system. I can only guess that the systems would be similar. I would be interested if any members know otherwise.

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