This audit assessed whether the NSW Department of Education and Communities manages the supply, availability and performance of casual teachers effectively.
Over 60,000 people teach in 2,223 NSW Government schools. All government school teachers must be approved to teach by the Department of Education and Communities (the Department).
Half of the 98,000 teachers currently approved by the Department have permanent positions and the others can work on a casual or temporary basis. Casual teaching covers short-term absences of less than four weeks full-time or two terms part-time. Casual teaching is necessary to ensure the continuity of education and supervision of children.
Each year casual teachers provide over one million teaching days in NSW schools. This represents eight per cent of total teaching days and costs over $350 million. Casual teaching days have remained stable over the last six years and the cost has increased by 2.5 per cent a year.
Historically schools engaged casual teachers directly with minimal involvement from the Department. In the late 1990’s there was concern that too many short term teacher absences were unfilled, leaving children unsupervised and disrupting learning. These problems were most evident in, but not confined to, hard-to-staff schools in rural New South Wales and Western and South Western Sydney.
In 2002, the Department introduced the Casual Teacher Plan to minimise times when classes were without teachers. This plan introduced a number of strategies including a teacher advertising service, better management of leave by principals and a casual teacher recruitment campaign. It also introduced Casual.Direct and Temporary Teacher Programs (TTPs) as strategies to assist hard-to-staff schools.
Casual.Direct is a call centre that helps schools fill casual vacancies. It takes requests from schools, then finds and assigns teachers from the Department’s database of approved casual teachers. It aims to save schools time and give them access to a larger pool of casual teachers. The Department advises that Casual.Direct is now not limited to a safety-net role and is available to all schools that choose to use it.
The call centre model depends on teachers being available locally and at short notice to fill vacancies. Some hard-to-staff schools may not have a sufficient supply of casual teachers. For these areas, the Department provides additional assistance through TTPs. TTPs engage suitable teachers to cover casual vacancies by providing temporary (four weeks or more) or permanent employment through the:
- teacher relief scheme (TRS) which places a teacher in a school
- variations of the TRS which employ a pool of teachers prepared to work across clusters of schools. These are known as the Local Area Relief and Rural Area Relief schemes.
This audit assessed whether the Department manages the supply, availability and performance of casual teachers effectively. A survey of 263 schools, selected on the basis of location and type, together with departmental data and internal reviews informed our audit. See Appendix 2 for more information.
The Department manages the supply and availability of casuals in a way that enables most schools to cover teacher absences. Since 2002, the Department has improved the assignment of casual teachers to schools in Western and South Western Sydney. However, its strategies to provide suitable casuals to hard-to-staff rural schools could work better.
The Department does not maintain complete and accurate information on the availability of casual teachers. This may delay Casual.Direct assigning teachers to schools.
The Department has systems to collect feedback on casual teacher performance but schools do not routinely use them.
If a school has a problem with the performance of a casual teacher, it will generally not re-employ them. However, Casual.Direct continues to assign such teachers to different schools.
The Department cannot exclude casual teachers from employment at other schools without sufficient evidence that their performance is a problem. It finds it difficult to collect the level of evidence needed to respond to performance issues when a teacher is employed casually across a number of schools.