However, there is still more work to be done – particularly when it comes to other key faculty members such as casual relief teachers (CRT).
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership’s (AITSL) says CRTs, just like full-time teaching staff members, need more support to access quality professional learning (PL) opportunities so they can develop their teaching expertise and improve outcomes in the classroom.
AITSL’s report, titled: ‘Spotlight: Professional Learning for Relief Teachers’, found that CRTs across all states and territories are going through less professional training compared to their full-time counterparts.
With the exception of the Tasmanian school system, teachers require 20 hours’ worth of PL. However, just 52% of the CRTs surveyed revealed that they have taken less than 16 hours of PL in the 12 months prior to the survey. Of the total, 28% of these took fewer than six hours.
What’s more, with about 75% of the CRTs surveyed who regularly work at the same school, around 60% of these were never given an invite to undertake PL with their co-teachers.
AITSL CEO, Mark Grant, expressed the organisation’s disappointment that just 40% of the CRTs who took part in the survey had joined in-school PL in their workplace despite 75% of these CRTs – a large number of these being newly-qualified graduates – saying that they want to be included.
The report, which stated that the number of CRTs working nationally is unknown, referred to a 2012 study which found that CRTs make up 12% (over 13,000) of the teaching workforce in Victorian government schools.
“We know that there are barriers for casual and relief teachers accessing professional learning including cost, time, and ensuring the relevance of learning opportunities,” Grant said.
“When in-school professional learning is available to CRTs, it not only provides a high-quality learning experience but also helps reduce cost and travel barriers.”
Quality of PL questioned
Looking into how CRTs select their learning activities, AITSL’s report found that the prevailing factors would be affordability and compliance. Eighty-six percent of the CRTs considered the cost of the activity as “important” or “very important”, followed by the need to meet the registration requirements (80%).
Around 76% of these CRTs also considered PL as important for meeting a need in their teaching practice while 69% said that the learning is for the benefit of their students.
With the majority (61.6%) resorted to professional reading and 55.8% made use of online learning modules, webinars or resources for their PL, AITSL noted that these activities do not give CRTs the chance to “collaborate, network with, or learn from other teachers.”
In addition to calling for schools and other sectors to reach out to their CRTs, AITSL’s report recommended that CRTs should also be provided with a school or system email address, as well as a link to available PL opportunities.
Schools can also have their highly accomplished and lead teachers extend help to CRTs at the start of their career through induction and mentoring, the report said.
AITSL further suggested that schools should adopt an ‘ethic of care’ which should not only foster information sharing on PL opportunities, but also give these CRTs the chance to observe other teachers within the school.
“The report finds that where CRTs had accessed in-school professional learning, most respondents worked directly with one school. That experience suggests that building stronger relationships with CRTs within schools can make a big difference,” Grant said.