So you want to work in a NSW public school – Part 1: Applying for Casual Teaching

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with a group of pre-service teachers, many of whom are about to graduate and were eager to find out how they could get work in public schools.  In the time available, I could only provide a very sketchy outline, so I’ve decided to follow up with this post.

In NSW Public Schools you can either be employed as a permanent teacher, or as a casual/temporary teacher. The process involved in securing a position as a permanent teacher couldn’t be more different than the process for securing work as a casual or temporary teacher. In this post, I’ll focus on how to get casual and temporary teaching work as it’s where most new teachers will start.

First some definitions…

Casual teachers are not permanent employees of the Department of Education and Communities. Casual teachers are the people we call in to cover classes for short periods, such as when a teacher is away sick, at a course, or on short term leave.

When teachers take longer periods of leave, such as maternity leave, a non-permanent teacher might be employed to take their place for a year. This teacher is a Temporary teacher. They sign an agreement, and their job is reasonably secure for that period. I say reasonably, because there are always circumstances that could change. For example,  if the teacher they replaced returned from leave early, then the temporary position would come to an end. In this case, employers are required to give notice.

Temporary teachers are also entitled to receive benefits such as sick leave and holiday pay. However, their daily take home pay is less than that of casual teachers because leave loading is added to the casual teachers’ fortnightly pay, rather than paid in the actual school holidays.

Now a reality check…

As much as I hate to say this, it has been quite unusual for new graduates to secure either permanent positions or temporary teaching positions in schools. This is especially the case when looking for work in areas such as the one where I work, which is a high SES suburb close to a major centre and well connected by both road and public transport. Many, many people look for work at my school. When you’re a new graduate you’re competing with not only other new graduates, but also with experienced teachers who have a proven record of successful teaching experience.

However, I have noticed over the past  year or so that new graduates seem to be getting more and more opportunities. In fact, often when I ring new graduates to offer them some casual work, they’ve already accepted work somewhere else. So times seem to be changing.

Requirements

First of all you need to have been approved to teach by the DEC and have been issued a teaching number. In addition, you MUST have a current anaphylaxis and emergency care certificates.

Both these certificates can be completed online at the following links:

Anaphylaxis Training     Emergency Care Training 

There are also new requirements for the Working With Children Check. It is your responsibility to have this done. For more information, go to this website.

The application for casual teaching

Here’s another reality check – the people who read your application are busy. I know, because I’m one of them. Employing casual teachers is just one very small part of my job. My role of assistant principal requires me to supervise a team of 8 teachers and support their classes, mentor new scheme teachers, deliver professional learning programs for my colleagues, coordinate student welfare across the school, manage targets and respond to various situations and crises as they arise. As well as all that, I’m a full time class teacher. In short, I don’t have a lot of time to read your CVs, so please be concise.

Now, what follows is my personal opinion.  I’m quite certain that other people responsible for employing casuals may have different ideas, but this is what I like.

The best applications I see have 3 parts: a good cover letter, a cv and supporting documents.

1. The Cover Letter

Because I’m busy, I always appreciate applications where all the information I need to know is included on cover. This is because when I’m desperate to find a casual teacher quickly, I don’t have to leaf through several pages to find the essential information. If your cover letter tells me everything I need to know, I add you to my casual list immediately. If not, I wait until I have time to read the rest of your application, and if its a busy time, that can take weeks. Reading CVs is rarely to be a priority for me, so I get around to it when I’ve worked through my many other more pressing jobs.

Here is the information I consider essential in a cover letter:

  • Your name
  • Your phone number
  • Your availability (5 days or just particular days each week)
  • Confirmation that  you have your anaphylaxis and e-care certificates as well as a current approval to teach.

It can also help if you mention specific skills and expertise that you bring to the role.

Every now and then I read a cover letter that stands out from the crowd. Most recently it was from a teacher who had been working for around 6 months. He hadn’t been able to secure as much work as he’d like in the area he was working in, so was looking to find opportunities further afield. How do I know this? He wrote it in his cover letter. Somehow, that personal story humanised him and helped him to stand out. I liked his proactive approach to finding work, and have rung him several times since to offer him work. It seems his cover letter impressed some other people as well, because so far, he has been booked at other schools whenever I’ve rung.

But it’s best not to provide too much personal information. I once received  a cover letter  from a woman who had recently left a very unhappy marriage and was trying to rebuild her life but was finding it almost impossible to break into the world of teaching – to the point where she was quite angry and resentful towards the people who were knocking her back. How do I know this? She wrote it in her cover letter. The amount of personal information she provided made her seem a little, well… unhinged. So keep the information that you share in your cover letter professional.

The CV

Along with your cover letter, attach a CV with your relevant work experience and achievements. To be completely honest with you, I rarely read the CVs. The one page cover letter should provide all the information I need to employ you for day to day casual teaching. However, while I don’t often read them as they come in, I do keep all the CVs on file. If a teacher is going on leave for an extended period (such as a month, a term or even longer) and we have no one available to take their class, this is when I turn to the CVs. When looking through the CVs I look for a number of qualities. Experience working in schools will always give you an edge, and you’ll gain this experience through the day-to-day casual work that you’ll do once you finish university. Additionally I’ll be looking for skills that might be relevant to the particular teacher you are replacing. For example, if the teacher on leave runs some of our sports programs it’s always helpful to find someone with those skills. There are loads of templates online to help you write a cv. Try to include as much information about what you bring to the role as possible.

Supporting Documents

Your supporting documents are all the documents that you are legally required to provide, such as your teaching approval, anaphylaxis and e-care certificates.

Getting a foot in the door 

Applications for casual teaching arrive at my school several times each week, and most of them are very similar. So how do you go from being just another name on the list, to someone we actually call?

Usually, I call people who are known to my school and have proven themselves to be good workers. Teaching is a huge responsibility and we like to ensure that our children are in good hands, so schools do tend to stick to people they know. However, I also like to add new people to our group of regular casuals throughout the year. Often our regular casuals will get permanent or temporary work elsewhere, and I need to have a pool of reliable people. At particular points in the year , usually at times when I’m less busy, I deliberately start calling some new names. I quite like to call new graduates as there is more chance they are available. If the new grad impresses me, I’ll call them often because I don’t want some other school snapping them up.

There’s also a lot of luck involved. Some days, I might have received an application on the same day as a job came up. If I’ve no one specifically in mind for that job, l ring that applicant. In fact, I quite like doing that because if the application has only just come in, there’s a good chance the person will be available.

If your cover letter has piqued my interest for some reason then I’ll try to call you before one of the other unknown names on my list.

Networking helps a lot too. If you are known to me, or another staff member, I’m more likely to give you a shot. Again, this knowledge humanises you, so take opportunities to form your professional networks. Networking won’t guarantee you ongoing work, but it will help you get your foot in the door. 

There is so much more I could tell you about casual teaching, like the sorts of things you can do that will help you get called back to a school, and also things that might stop you being called back. But I’ll leave those for another post.

I’d love to hear from you. What questions do you have about teaching in NSW schools, or, if you are responsible for employing casual teachers, what advice would you give?

Please use the comments section – this is a great topic for a forum.

 

For more advice for new teachers, check out my New Teachers page.

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34 thoughts on “So you want to work in a NSW public school – Part 1: Applying for Casual Teaching

  1. Jane Logan says:

    Thanks Corinne! So much relevant information and great tips! I will be keeping all of this in mind when I apply for teaching jobs, and I look forward to part two 🙂

  2. Ms Grunstelline says:

    Hi, what a great post. I just have one question that I think about a lot…I’m a young student and went straight from high school to university and I’ve never been travelling before. I really want to travel after I graduate so I feel like I’ve accomplished this dream before starting on my other dream of teaching. Do you think it will be significantly harder for me to get a job if I have a year off after graduating? I would probably work 6 months at my job in childcare and then travel for a few months after that. Thanks very much 🙂

    • Hi Ms Grunstelline,
      Thanks so much for your comment. I doubt it would be harder for you to pick up work after a year’s travel. I did the same after I graduated, and so do many people today. If that really is your dream, you might regret not doing it while you have the chance. It’s far more difficult to travel once you are committed to permanent work.

      One thing you could consider is picking up some teaching work while you’re overseas – they seem to like Australian teachers in other countries. I know many people work in the UK for a year or so after graduating, and I worked a year in Japan teaching English. It was a great way to see the world, and also gain some professional experience.

      Regardless of whether or not you work overseas, you’ll probably come back full of confidence, having spent so much time travelling and gaining new experiences. The poise that will allow you to bring to a job can only help you find employment.

      Good luck! I hope you follow your dreams.

  3. Ms Grunstelline says:

    Thank you so much! That has put my mind at ease knowing I don’t have to choose a good start in teaching or an opportunity to travel and can do both! I really love your blog! 🙂

  4. I love this Corinne, Twitter is excellent and I remember this chat very well, but having it explained in depth really helps! Hearing what is actually happening in schools and what you look for when choosing casual teachers is helping me to write my own cover letter for a position.
    My university has not mentioned anything about having first aid certificates, or anaphylaxis etc. I often wondered why, they covered pretty much everything else. Best book myself in!
    I would love to know what I should ask if I get called to come in and teach. Obviously the Year level, times etc. But what are some of the common questions CRT’s ask?
    Thanks again Corinne, i’ll look forward to Part 2!

    • Hi Melanie,

      Sorry, I’ve neglected this blog for a while and missed this question until now. Thank you so much for stopping by the blog.

      When you get called into teach, the start time and year level are the most important. Other things you may wish to ask once you arrive are:

      – are there any special needs in the class you should be aware of
      – what are the procedures if you need to have something photocopied
      – on playground duty, what are the in bound and out of bounds areas, and are there any procedures you need to be aware of.
      – do you need to lock and secure the classroom at the end of the day.

      Hope this helps. All the best with your teaching journey.

      Corinne

  5. Hello Corinne,

    I’m a recent graduate that has just received my casual teaching number and I’m currently in the process of putting resumes into schools. My lecturer told me that it is best to secure a meeting with the Principal or the Executive staff member who is in charge of hiring casuals. I work as a S.L.S.O casually, and I know how busy the Executive staff are, so this advice struck me as a bit unrealistic from the outset.

    Anyway, I went to a school today and tried to secure an appointment but the office lady said “We don’t do that here.” And I had to leave my resume with her. I left with a feeling like ‘I’m not going to get work at that school’.

    Just wondering if I’m being irrational, and that the resume won’t just be collecting dust or whether you had any advice to get past the office ladies. I understand that they have to be very protective of the staff and children, and that they can’t just book appointments with someone from the street, but I feel like I’ve found my calling in life with primary school teaching and I just want to be given a chance to prove that I’m an awesome teacher– which I am.

    Thanks so much for your time,

    Adam.

    • Hi Adam,

      Thanks for stopping by my blog.

      I can understand how disappointed you must feel after that reception from the office ladies. It’s unlikely that your cv would be gathering dust in the office somewhere. In my experience school office staff are very efficient at processing what ever comes in, so its likely that they’ve already passed it on to either the principal or the member of staff who coordinates casuals.

      I wouldn’t give up on trying to have meetings with the principals of the different schools you go to. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door if you are able to make a good impression.

      You could also try ringing the school and finding out the name of the person who coordinates casuals and email your cv to them.

      I’d also suggest that you re-send it at the beginning of the new school year, and perhaps again at the beginning of 2nd or 3rd term.

      There’s a lot of casual work available, so I’m sure if you send your cv out widely enough, you’ll get your chance sooner rather than later.

      All the best,
      Corinne

  6. Thanks for the advice Corinne, things look to be picking up a little bit at one school I have sent my resume out. It’s a bit odd, because I find myself hoping that people will get sick or take leave, which is terrible!

    Thanks again,

    Adam.

  7. Mrs S says:

    Hi Corinne,

    Some excellent tips for us casual teachers!
    I would really like some information on casual teachers achieving accreditation and ongoing professional development.
    I am accredited at the professional competence level and now am teaching casual, but am finding it very difficult to do professional development since I don’t have a principal to ‘endorse’ a course.
    Also how do casuals complete our ’50 hours of unregistered hours’?

    I hope im making sense.

  8. Lisa says:

    Great post. I wonder if you have any advice to people like me who graduated overseas, and hoping to get an Admin Support Staff or Teacher Aide position. I have worked as a Teacher Aide in a Catholic School in Qld from 2008-2011.We have been relocated twice since then and now new in NSW. What is the best option for me to get my foot in the system and possibly a permanent job?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

  9. Kylie Gowans says:

    Hi Corinne,
    what an informative, awesome blog site. I am a mature (38) new grad and am facing a bit of a crisis. I have completed a double degree Early Childhood/Primary, and have taken a position in the EC sector for now, due to receiving feedback about having no experience in this sector to gain employment and feeling as though I will not easily gain casual employment in public schools.
    My query is that I wonder if this experience in EC will be recognised if I continue in this field for (roughly, no grand plans) 12 months to gain experience which satisfies the EC sector before heading into schools.
    I’m at a bit of a cross roads at the moment and am wondering if I am doing the right thing, which I am not asking you to confirm for me!
    Just interested in your feedback if you don’t mind too much,

    thank you
    Kylie

    • Hi Kylie,
      Thank you for the feedback on my blog. I’m glad you like it. I’m not an expert on your specific situation, I’m afraid. When you ask if the experience in EC will be recognised, are you referring to pay scales, or simply as valid experience that will help you gain employment?

      Certainly, with your qualifications and the experience you are gaining, I’d consider you to be a very valuable member of staff, especially if you were working with Kindergarten, as you’d have a greater insight into where the children are coming from before they commence school. You’d also bring in valuable experience of working with and communicating with parents, designing learning programs, working collaboratively as a member of a team and so forth.

      However, I wouldn’t see the experience as valid in terms of other work we do at school.In terms of working with the NSW syllabi documents, Best Start, the Literacy and Numeracy continuums, assessing and reporting and so forth, I’d see you very much as a beginning teacher. But that’s okay, because those things can be learned.

      It’s really about what qualities you bring to the job – your ability to work with others, your passion for the role, your initiative and your willingness to learn. There are some very experienced teachers who fail to impress, and there are plenty of new graduates who blow me away with their professionalism, knowledge and enthusiasm.

  10. Anita says:

    Hi Corinne,

    Thank you for the advice you have written. I have done most things you have advised for casual positions. I have been doing casual work all year, and although I have been called in by a variety of schools it hasn’t been as much as I would have liked. I have not completed any blocks this year unfortunately.

    I have a few questions.

    Firstly, the school year is coming to a close and unfortunately I do not feel that I have still got my foot set in one particular school to be called back for blocks or temporary positions. I have not been called for the last week and am not sure I will be for the next two and a half weeks left of school. Do schools usually call casual teachers at the end of term 4 or should I assume that I won’t be getting any jobs for the rest of the year?

    Secondly, should I re hand in my resume to the schools at the beginning of the new year next year? Or would it work just as well if I called the school at the beginning of next year to tell them that I am still available for casual teaching?

    Thirdly, one thing that I have experienced is that I may get a call or two from a school but as soon as I tell them that I am not available for that day I never hear from them again.I may get called in by a school more often than another school, but it is not very consistent and there have been weeks where I have had 0-1 days of work. What should a casual teacher do or say if they really would like to be called again by a particular school but are not available for that particular day?

    Lastly, what makes a teacher more successful in being called into a school more often than other casual teachers? How do they stand out? And what would make a teacher unsuccessful in being called back by a school?

    Thankyou again for your time and advice

    Anita

    • Hi Anita,
      I’m actually planning a new post which should address a lot of this. What teachers do to get asked back, and why some teachers don’t get asked back.

      As far as the end of year goes. There probably aren’t too many professional development days or network meetings happening, which means there is less likelihood of being booked. In addition, a lot of end of year activities mean things wind down, which means that sometimes staff in specific roles like support teachers, may end up standing in or teachers who aren’t coming in, as their usual programs are disrupted anyway. So yes, its less likely you’ll get called, but not impossible. It’s also a time of year where lots of teachers are run down and starting to get sick, so there maybe days coming up unexpectedly.

      With the resume, I’d start sending it out now, and then send it again at the beginning of the new year. At my school, we’ve sometimes found out at the very last minute that a teacher won’t be returning for some reason and we’ve needed to fill the role with a temporary teacher for the first few weeks of term or even longer, until the DEC fills the vacancy with a permanent member of staff.

      When that happens we go through all the CVs that have come in and look at them closely, and will call people in to interview for the position. Quite a few of our current temps found their start that way.

      I’d send it in at the beginning of the year as well, just in case it gets lost over the holidays, or someone new takes over the role of booking casual teachers.

      If you’d like a school to call you back, just tell them in the phone call that you’re very willing to work for them. I’ll write more about that in the post I’m planning, where I’ll also address your last question. They’re big topics and need a post of their own.

  11. Alison says:

    Hi Corinne,
    Thanks very much for this blog; it clears up quite a lot of uncertainties about how to get started finding casual work.

    I finished my Graduate diploma last year and am now looking for permanent work ( applying for anything in my subjects and less than 2 hours travel from home that I find). However, from what you say, a way to get a foot in the door is casual work of which so far I have none.

    In terms of handing out CVs ( with cover letters and relevant documents!) is it best to do this in person or would emailing this information be equally effective?

    I’m just a little cautious about the whole process but passionate about teaching and very much want to be doing some work in the area as soon as I can. I currently have a part time job as a teachers aide in a small special school to support myself and as a result have only two days a week when I can do casual work. Is this a limiting factor? I just don’t see how people can manage to stay afloat with the uncertainty of casual work if they don’t have something else.

    Any advice you give would be great.

    Thank you.

    Alison

    • Hi Alison, thank you for commenting and I’m sorry for not replying earlier – my blog got inundated with spam comments and yours was stuck in the middle of them. It’s taken me until now to clean them all out.

      Anyway, if you still want my advice, I don’t think it matters if you go in person or email. Usually, in person, you’ll just deal with the person at the front desk who may have little or no influence over who is employed for casual work, but there is a small chance you might meet the principal or member of staff who is in charge of that area, so I guess that could help.

      As there are so many parts to a cv that now need to be kept on file, like anaphylaxis certifications, a hard copy is more convenient for many schools – it saves them printing them out. However, my personal preference was to receive them by email, as I didn’t want more paper clutter ever where.

      Really, I don’t think it matters. Everyone has their own preference and there are no rules. You could always ring the schools you are hoping to apply to and ask their preferences.

      The two days a week does limit you a little as people won’t want to employ you to cover classes where the teacher is off for more consecutive days, however it shouldn’t stop you picking up work if your days coincide with when schools need you. We have plenty of part time casuals on our books, it’s quite normal.

      I completely agree with you about the uncertainty of work. Sadly I have known some excellent teachers who have left the profession because they couldn’t find secure work. I’m not sure what the answer is to that.

  12. Emma says:

    Hi thank you for all the great advice!

    I am a new graduate and I have taken the last school term off to move house and get all my resources ready so that I am prepared for casual teaching. My question is will appearing during 2nd term go against me, will schools have expected me to have gotten work or already picked their casuals? I am feeling pressured by the amount of people in my uni cohort getting full time employment (how I don’t know!!) or casual days, starting to think I may have missed the ship?

    Also I know you touched on it but still unsure how I drop my cv into schools , do I show up (because staff are often on class) or do I book an appointment with someone?

    Thank you so much for all your advice 🙂

    • Hi Emma, thank you for visiting my blog, I hope you find some of the information here useful.

      It’s never too late to approach schools for casual work. Things change, and yes a school may have a pool of preferred casual teachers, but through out the year those casuals often pick up longer blocks or permanent work, so schools frequently have to increase their pool. In fact it’s probably a good idea to drop a cv in at the same school more than once in a year. I often would start calling new casual teachers based on the most recent cvs to come in as I knew they’d be more likely to be available and willing to work than call people who had submitted their cvs months ago.

      It’s hard to advise on showing up vs booking an appointment as each school is different. I’d lean towards just showing up and presenting yourself to the front office, explaining why you’re there. If you’re lucky there might be someone available to see you, but if not, you could still hand over your cv and enquire about a meeting. At least that way, your cv would get into the school.

      Good luck looking for work! I’m sure you’ll find some soon.

  13. Lor Lor says:

    Hi there,
    I graduated in 1999 and since then pursued a rewarding career in early childhood teaching , service management , training & assessment and recently back to service management. I now want to get into the primary school system, and want to start with casual work which ill know I have to do for a long time before something permanent comes up (though ill be happy to do casual ongoing). Would my years of early childhood teaching work and adult education in my favour or against me? Any tips for me?

    • Hi Lor Lor,
      Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.

      Your experience in both early childhood and adult education shouldn’t work against you, both will have allowed you to develop expertise and skills which are transferable to the primary context.

      My advice would be to go around to as many primary schools as you can to introduce yourself and give out your CV. I’m sure that schools will be really happy to give you a break, especially in K-2 as your EC skills are so relevant there.

      Given that you’ve been out of the primary system for so long, there may be some questions about your currency. There is a new Australian Curriculum and the NSW versions of that are slowly being released. This year all NSW schools are implementing the new English curriculum and Maths will come in next year. So, you will need to become familiar with those if you aren’t already.

      If you’re not familiar with them, the Centre for Professional Learning provides some courses on those, which I’ve heard are very good. Here’s a link: http://cpl.asn.au/

  14. felicity says:

    Thanks so much for this post. As a mature-aged self-service teacher, it’s very helpful. I have three questions which I would really appreciate your opinion on. The first is: do you have a view one way or another about mature-aged, new graduate teachers? Do most Principals and APs prefer them or tend to steer clear of them or does their age really not matter at all? Is there anything I could put in a covering letter that would be particularly good? Second, I had a great relationship with a teacher I had on prac and am working with her as a volunteer at the moment, partly to get more experience and partly because it’s fun. It’s a lovely kindy class and we’re doing SENA testing so I’m learning a lot. Does this sort of thing make any difference when applying for work as a new graduate? Third, how much/what detail should I put in my covering letter or CV about previous, non-teaching work experience? Thanks for your time.

    • Hi Felicity,
      Apologies for the late reply on this – I’m afraid November and December were such busy months for me work wise, that I haven’t kept up with my blog or the comments for a while.

      To answer your questions, in my experience, the age of the graduate does not really matter at all. We are far more interested in the ability of the person to do good work with our students.

      It’s hard for me to comment on what to include in your covering letter that would be good, without knowing you or your background. I do think its important to keep it brief, as the people reading your letter are always busy and perhaps will just skim over a lengthy letter. If you have any particular strengths or interests in teaching, it might be a good idea to mention them. They may pique the reader’s interest, or they may align to a particular need that a school may have.

      I think the fact that you’ve been volunteering with kindergarten class and are learning to use the SENA test is great experience. I’d definitely encourage you to mention the fact that you are experienced with that, as it’s an important skill and we frequently have to train new teachers to use the assessment. However, more important than the assessment is how you would use it to inform what happens in the class. I’d suggest that you mention how you may be using it to devise appropriate learning experiences for the students you’re working with.

      Regarding the amount of detail to include in your letter about previous, non-teaching work experience. In the cover letter, I’d only include what is directly applicable to your work as a teacher, so if the experiences you’ve had provide you with some transferrable skills, they could be worth mentioning. In the cv, you can include as much as you like.

      I hope this helps.

      Corinne

  15. Calista says:

    Hello Corinne,

    Thank you for the relevant information.

    Do you have any advice regarding casual work for an overseas applicant? I am learning – through many emails and phone calls – that my hands are basically tied until I have a permanent address in Sydney and can apply for a Children Check clearance number. I have all the relevant criminal record checks and accreditation so to teach in Canada and have been teaching now for a year as a casual employee. I get work in my hometown every day.

    Are there steps I can take to further the process prior to moving from Canada to Australia? Additionally, do you think most schools encourage multicultural and inclusive hiring practices? I am concerned that priority for even casual work will be given to permanent Australian residents.

    Thank you for your time.
    -Calista from Canada

  16. Ash says:

    This was exceptional help Corinne! It seems so simple but having it in writing so that it can be referenced later is amazing – thank you. Ash

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