Casual Crisis

The are numerous inequities in education. One of the most important has emerged partly from neo-liberal politics which increasingly aims to put educators in competition with each other and therein disingenuously represent what the attributes of a ‘good teacher’ are. Firstly, Australia is devaluing teaching though increasing reliance on casual teachers to fill occasional gaps in permanent staffing. Secondly, permanent staffing policy is subject to highly insular methods and policies which actively serve to prevent ‘new blood’ entering the system. Any any talk about ‘professional standards’ is a joke, as more than half the permanent body in Australia will not be subjected to the scrutiny (based on modernist ideals) that new scheme teachers are forced to agree with — despite a body of research which suggests this is a terrible method to build an agile workforce. In addition casual staff stand well outside the loop when it comes to even attempting to engage with this employment culture. Education is not like Insurance, it’s a pillar of society and should therefore strive for equity, not roll over and say “that’s how it is mate”. It’s little wonder so many qualified teachers end up working in Insurance as a result.

The lot of a casual teacher is as a non-descript body of labour devoid of professional goals and ambition. If you’ve done much casual teaching you’ll know its a fickle and shambolic way to educate children seriously. No only are they under-employed and subject to few of the work-place benefits of full time staff, they fund their own on-going professional development, excluded from the collegiate though insular email-lists and group discussions which consider them to be little more than gap-filler. Few graduates will escape the reality of casual teaching, especially if they would like to work in regions where teachers occupy their chairs for decades — often repeating the same modules year in an out without much in the way of scrutiny.

While I might just sit here an moan about this in-equality, I’m increasingly of a mind that casual-teachers should form their own networks, dealing with issues which I’m sure the permanent staffer has little interest or concern. More than that, I think that casual-teachers should be able access courses and information which is ‘badged’ in some way. I’m sure they don’t have the kind of income assurity needed to pay for ‘big conferences’ — which are increasingly driven by Sir Lunchalot’s astronomical (think new Porsche) fees. However, if they are going to give up their time, then they need help in getting into full time work … and I’m yet to see any TeachMeet or other which attempts that — and why this inequality which delivers a surplus of labour is simply bad for education and society.

Like other industries — if this is to be market driven, then those occupying chairs safe in the knowledge its now ‘a job for life’ really should not be in front of kids for whom that kind of life assurance is a dream.