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.
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:
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.
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.
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.