Temporary teachers feel 'unspoken pressure to do more,' research finds

Temporary teachers feel

Due to the interim and “precarious” nature of their employment, many temporary teachers in NSW feel an “unspoken pressure to do more” to improve their chances of getting work in the future, a recent study has revealed.

By contrast, this need to impress was not felt by teachers in permanent positions, and the situation “appeared to be leading” to tension between some staff in different employment categories.

In a blog post for the Australian Association for Research in Education’s (AARE) EduResearch Matters website, researchers noted how one respondent recalled some permanent colleagues stating, “I don’t have to do anything else – I am already permanent.”

Another described some permanent teachers as “preying” on temporary teachers by “shifting work” to them.

The researchers surveyed more than 18,000 teachers and identified about 3,700 holding temporary positions. The researchers then analysed the similarities and differences of workload experiences between temporary teachers and their permanent and casual counterparts.

The study found that one in five NSW public school teachers is employed on a temporary basis, with only 27% working in an interim capacity by choice.

The authors – Rachel Wilson and Susan McGrath-Champ from the University of Sydney, Meghan Stacey from the University of New South Wales, Mihajla Gavin from the University of Technology Sydney, and Scott Fitzgerald from Curtin University – also found a gender imbalance, with more men reporting being in permanent employment than women.

“With the tendency of teachers to be predominately women, we found that, in fact, there are more temporary teachers than there are the total number of men teaching in NSW public schools,” they wrote. “Our data also suggests that women may also stay longer as temporary teachers than men do, with potential implications for future career opportunities and leadership positions in schools.”

In terms of workload, teachers in temporary positions estimated to be working an average of 56 hours per week during term time, compared to 57 hours for those in permanent positions and 40 hours for those in casual employment.

Additionally, 72% of permanent teachers and 70% of temporary teachers said that their jobs “always” require them to “work very hard.” The figure dipped to 58% for casual staff.

Two-thirds of permanent staff members, 62% of temporary staff members, and 40% of casuals also reported “never” or “rarely” having enough time to complete tasks.

Despite reporting similar levels of workload to their permanent counterparts, the researchers noted that teachers in temporary positions felt like they work harder than those in permanent roles.

According to the authors, their findings showed that there is an urgent need to address the growing number of temporary teachers in NSW public schools.

“We would also argue that, at system level, the conversion of, in particular long-serving women temporary teachers into permanent employment would be a good thing, signalling respect for the work they do and building benefits for the profession, schools and ultimately students,” they wrote. “A widespread reduction in the overall proportion of temporary employees, as well as work hours and workload demands are also needed.”

“While teaching is a cognitively, emotionally, and physically strenuous job, historically it has relied upon its reputation as a secure, permanent, and stable career to attract strong candidates to the profession.”

The researchers added that with pay rates remaining “notably low” compared to other professions with similar levels of education, there is a greater need to address issues regarding job security, workload, and work conditions of teachers.

“Our new teachers, many of whom are temporary, will be tomorrow’s school leaders, and are central to the provision of public education. To maintain a strong teaching profession, it is important that we look after them,” they wrote.