Supporting your casual relief teachers to learn

Quick guide for school leaders

How supporting casual relief teachers to learn can help your educational setting

Students can spend up to the equivalent of one full year being taught by casual relief teachers (CRTs) over the duration of their education. In this time, they can have a significant impact on improving learning outcomes. Seventy-five percent of CRTs usually work in the same setting on a regular basis. However, a recent AITSL survey (2018) found that they are undertaking less professional learning and at a lower quality. Offering CRTs opportunities for high-quality professional learning will:

  • support all teachers to work collectively towards common goals
  • help build collective familiarity with programs in their setting
  • help build relationships with staff
  • help make CRTs feel more engaged with staff and learners in their settings
  • help provide an additional perspective to discussions, perhaps different from permanent staff’s experiences.

Quick and easy ideas to get started

  • Nominate a staff member to make sure CRTs are included in invitations and communications about upcoming professional learning opportunities. CRTs will feel grateful to be included, even if they aren’t able to participate.
  • Look at what existing professional learning is planned for the term/year and which might be of particular interest to CRTs.
  • Let staff know who may be coming to internal opportunities and why. This will help build a culture of inclusiveness and make CRTs feel more comfortable about being included.
  • Allocate a mentor or ‘buddy’ for CRTs who work for extended periods or on a regular basis in settings. This person can help guide CRTs with questions or issues around practice.
  • If your setting has an identified process for classroom observation (such as learning walks, peer observation or lesson studies), consider how CRTs may be included.

Dig a bit deeper to increase opportunities

There are barriers for CRTs to access on-site professional learning including cost, time, and relevance of professional learning. Explore the common barriers below to identify how you might overcome these in your setting

Common barriers to participation


Cost and a need to meet registration requirements are the main factors informing the professional learning decisions of CRTs 

  • Which on-site professional learning opportunities can be made available for CRTs?
  • How might your setting support CRTs registration requirements, such as access to a mentor?

On-site professional learning is often tailored to the goals of that setting. At first glance, this learning may seem out of context or irrelevant to CRTs

  • How might CRTs be considered when planning professional learning tailored to educational settings?
  • What processes can be put in place to ensure CRTs are told about upcoming professional learning opportunities upon introduction to the setting?

CRTs can struggle with the time commitment involved in professional learning, as they may have to take unpaid time off to attend

  • Could on-site professional learning be recorded and uploaded to a shared platform for CRTs (and other staff) to access later if they were unable to attend in person?
  • Could self-paced professional learning such as professional reading or online learning be made accessible to CRTs who work in your setting?

Most CRTs who access on-site professional learning are involved on an ad hoc basis

  • How might inclusion of CRTs in on-site professional learning be formalised?

Plan to move forward

There is a wide range of professional learning that a teacher can undertake. Take a look at these effective forms of professional learning, to consider how you might be able to involve CRTs in opportunities happening in your setting:

  • Observation of practice and feedback
  • Coaching/Mentoring
  • Professional reading
  • Professional learning communities
  • Inquiry/Action research
  • Collaboration based on learner work samples
  • Networks
  • Online forums