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What I’ve Learned on the Other Side as an Ex-Principal

December 2018 by Terry Twomey

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As an ex-secondary school principal, my career has taken me to many Melbourne schools and learning institutions over the last couple of decades. After 18 years in the profession, I recently transitioned into a role within the team at Tradewind, supporting Casual Relief Teachers (CRTs) with their professional development.

Staffing in a secondary school is very fluid and it’s no secret that covering staff absences is a prominent issue – after all, you need a significant volume of people to assist with various programmes on any given day. Take my last school for example. With 900+ students and 100 staff (including 70 teachers), it’s inevitable that students spend a lot of their schooling with replacement teachers. When you look at it that way, the quality of those CRTs is just as critical as permanent teaching staff. However, with a local CRT pool that has become progressively thinner over the years, I have seen a lot of schools turn to teach agencies to supplement the supply of CRTs.

Whilst I was aware of certain aspects of the process from the inside, principals are generally quite removed from the day-to-day management of CRTs. After so long on the other side of the fence, in recent months I’ve been amazed to learn what makes the recruitment world tick (in terms of the actual supply of teachers), as well as the extent of support that recruitment agencies actually provide to CRTs on a daily basis.

My Key Learnings


CRTs are regularly thrown into different schools and required to teach students they have no established relationships with, and support is critical for managing the challenges and frustrations that result. From working with teachers that have concerns about behaviour management (and supplying strategies that might work more effectively), to the emotional support that is provided by our education recruitment consultants on a daily basis, the support network that CRTs have to fall back on really took me by surprise. Sometimes it’s as simple as helping someone with their commute or checking in after school to see how the day went and what they thought of the school.

The other side to it is the professional learning and coaching that is available to all of Tradewind’s agency teachers. Generally offered during school term breaks, these professional development courses cover a range of topics, including:

  • The role of a CRT
  • What it’s like to be a CRT in a secondary school
  • Classroom behaviour management
  • Building relationships and trust in the classroom

It’s not just professional development, either. There is a whole range of relevant courses aimed at increasing a teacher’s chances of success, such as applying for graduate teaching positions, writing an application, tips for being shortlisted and advice on presenting yourself for a teaching interview.

Closing Thoughts

After so long working in schools, the transition to education recruitment has certainly been an incredible change for me. Although, it’s not just about what I’ve learned regarding the broader teaching workforce, also understanding the scale of deployment, as well as the range of people that are placed (particularly teaching assistants). Not to mention the opportunity to work with capable, diverse and committed CRTs, which really makes what I’m doing a worthwhile endeavour.

Are you looking for new CRTs to support your staff? Or perhaps you’re a CRT looking for new opportunties? We’d love to help – get in touch with the team at Tradewind.