Your Relief Questions Answered

Junior school 20.jpg

Scott King is Education Personnel's head of temporary recruitment. He has taught all over the world (including a few stints as a relief teacher), and loves to help teachers just starting their teaching journey.

When you start out relief teaching, there's a lot you don't know, and you're more or less expected to figure it out on your own. During my years of relieving in New Zealand and England, plus several years as a recruiter at one of London's biggest teaching recruitment agencies, I've gained a ton of knowledge of what makes a successful reliever. 

In February I presented an online webinar on relief teaching, which you can watch here. During the webinar, the teachers attending had a whole of lot of questions for me, which due to technical difficulties I wasn't able to answer. The questions were so relevant I decided to turn my answers into a blog post to share with other BTs who are starting their teaching journey.


Can you clarify what a ten day letter is? Having applied online I have an email receipt of an application that states “The Education Act allows for 10 days teachingunregistered”. Is this it?

Yes, that is it! Once you've sent in your registration application, you are allowed to teach for 20 half days or 10 total days teaching. I think the idea is to get the ball rolling, with the assumption that if you’ve applied for registration (and paid the fee) you’ve got most of what they need. Personally, I wouldn’t go out visiting schools to get on their relief list until I had been sent my teacher registration certificate, but if you are really eager to get out there you can start relieving with just your ten day letter.

I’m a new graduate provisionally registered teacher with a Bachelor of Teaching in ECE. I don’t have any idea what I should be paid as a reliever. Can you help?

This varies from centre to centre, depending on who runs it. A good guide to ECE teacher salaries is the Early Childhood Collective Agreement: http://www.nzei.org.nz/AgreementDoc/ECEA.pdf. Not all centres use the Collective Agreement as their employment contract, so not all will pay these rates, but it should give you a rough idea of what to expect.

How important is a personal philosophy on your CV?

If you’re teaching ECE, having a personal philosophy statement on your CV is essential. Make sure it is succinct and sharp, don’t waffle for half a page. Most importantly, make sure it relates to the centre you want to work at. If your teaching philosophy values play­-based learning and the centre has a very formal, structured programme, chances are you won’t be a great fit. You can find out a centre’s philosophy by looking on their website or their ERO reports. If you really want to relieve at a centre and your philosophies don’t match, it is better just to leave your statement off your CV than lie about your teaching philosophy.

Would you apply for relief teaching at ECE, primary and intermediate if you are primary trained? Will this increase my work opportunities or should I just stick to primary?

As a primary trained teacher you can work in ECE centres, primary schools and secondary schools.

If you’re looking for extra work so you can have extra income, it can be a good idea to open up your relieving options. Primary teachers are fairly in demand as relievers at ECE centres.

However, if you want to relieve in order to gain teaching experience, with the end goal of winning a full time primary teaching role, you should focus on getting primary teaching work. You want to ensure your experience is relative to where you want to end up in your career.

You don’t want to get pigeonholed as an ECE or secondary teacher, especially as there isn't a huge amount of crossover between ECE, primary and secondary teaching.

As a beginning teacher and a student still doing post grad, I’m finding trouble getting the money for my registration. Do you know what options there are for me please?

I called the Teacher’s Council to ask this question and they do not offer any scholarships or financial support for teacher registration fees. We do know of some teachers who have had success getting financial help from WINZ. However, these teachers were already on the Job Seeker's benefit and had to provide strong supporting evidence that teacher registration would improve their chances of winning a role. For example, a supporting letter from a school saying they would hire the teacher if they had  registration.

I am relieving this week at a school that I have little background of. Do you recommend contacting the school to arrange a visit with the class? Or just a visit with the teacher/principal?

You can phone the teacher and ask for a little bit of background on the class. You can find out anything else online. You’ll find out everything you need to know on the morning ­they’ll tell you if there are any behavioural issues or children with specific requirements. The best thing you can do to be prepared is arrive an hour before the kids do ­e.g. 7.30am. This will give you enough time to prepare.

For a beginning teacher, relief teaching can be a bit daunting. Don’t overthink it though. Have activities planned and know what year group you’re teaching, and just go out there and make it your own! 

I have been doing relief work already and was initially told by the school I didn’t need a salary assessment, however, I have since heard and you have now confirmed I need to do that, will that still take effect on the work I have done?

You don’t need to worry. Just fill in your salary assessment form and you’ll be good to go. The MOE will back pay you any money you’re owed from the relief work you've already done, once your salary assessment as come through.


Please don't hesitate to comment down below if you have a question that wasn't covered here. We'll get back to you as soon as we can with an answer.

Need a bit of a hand getting started relief teaching?
We can help.