Schools Positive disruption: apps allowing CRTs to bypass agencies

James Moio (left) and Ben Crozier.

CRT booking apps are cutting out ‘the middle person’, aka agencies, for the benefit of schools and employees.

Ben Grozier, a former casual relief teacher who has worked in education for more than 20 years, “had a light bulb moment” after three different people from one school called him about working that day. “I said yes to the first one, and, obviously had to then say no to the other two. I asked myself, ‘How’s this process so inefficient?’”

This was the catalyst for his ClassCover app, a “disruptive technology” ten years in the making. “You have educators spending a vast amount of admin time trying to book CRTs. We’ve made that much more efficient, cutting those hours and hours down to a 30-second process on a bit of technology.”

In Victoria, CRTs have historically been employed in one of two ways: directly by school councils or through various employment agencies. While schools pay the higher, AEU-negotiated ministerial order rates, agencies are only required to pay minimum award rates. This can mean a difference of almost $100 a day for performing the same work.

But now there’s a third option in the mix, with CRT booking apps providing a “finder service” that either employ teachers directly, offering ministerial order rates without commissions or fees from CRTs, or maintain schools as the employer. Spark, Canuwork and ClassCover are among the new apps connecting schools with available relief teachers in their area.

Ben believes that here in Victoria, where schools have greater autonomy and agencies have been able to get a foothold and avoid passing on ministerial order rates, CRT apps like his “are 100% a disruptive force”. Currently ClassCover has around 300 schools and 120,000 teachers on its platform. Schools pay an annual one-off licence fee based on student enrolments to use the software.

The app has a series of features to make the booking process simple, and to help maintain the school’s records. “The schools still run the payroll,” says Ben. “So, they pay the ministerial order rates, and the casual teachers get 100% of that. There are no commissions.”

“Any app that puts more money in the back pocket of casual relief teachers can only be a good thing.”

James Moio, a teacher for seven years, also had the rights of CRTs front of mind when developing his booking app, Spark. “I got to know a lot of teachers working for agencies who were not happy with losing their commission. Fortunately, my best friend is into tech, so we combined my background with his tech skills to create an app that would ensure CRTS get paid the maximum daily rate,” says James.

Spark is a location-based service enabling schools, which pay a flat fee per placement, to connect with nearby teachers. “The heightened visibility of available teachers on our app allows our schools to see who is available and when, and contact them directly,” James explains. “It’s a much more efficient booking process. Instead of having to wake up and call an agency, we’re cutting out that middle-person.”

He says Spark’s most prominent feature is the ‘favourites’ option. Once a CRT has worked at a school they can favourite it, and vice versa. This allows the school to automatically book in that teacher, if available, and helps teachers return to schools they know and like.

AEU deputy vice president (secondary) Marino D’Ortenzio says that while these app developers are in the business of making money, the union is pleased that this is not at the expense of workers’ wages and conditions. “They are not altruistic. But a lot of them came from the profession and wanted to make it easier for CRTs and schools – and, importantly, to pay CRTs a proper rate.

Whether they pay the ministerial order rate directly, or put the cost back on the school, the cost is not on the CRT,” says Marino.

“We have long had concerns about agencies and the low rates they pay. So, if the result is to drive up the wages for workers and to reduce workload for schools, we think it’s a good thing for this sort of disruption to happen.”

Ben agrees. Acknowledging that ClassCover is operating in a competitive industry, he believes: “Any app that provides schools with additional choice and also puts more money in the back pocket of casual relief teachers can only be a good thing.”

James says current teacher shortages mean apps like Spark have arrived at an opportune time. “There’s clearly a massive demand for relief teachers. We’re not solving the issue of teacher shortages, but we’re heightening the visibility of available CRTs and making sure they’re paid that maximum rate.”

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