‘But they’re just a casual…’

I love Out of School Hours Care (I think I accidentally start every article with that comment?), but there is a pattern in staffing that I don’t necessarily love. And it’s not the casual workforce we rely so heavily on.

It’s the attitude towards them.

I think casuals are wonderful! They are often the children’s favourites as I find the casuals at most services tend to be younger university students (with a whole lot more energy than I ever have).

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I too hear ‘they’re only uni students’.

Again, this attitude is not something I’m fond of.

From the get go, we have subconsciously already written them off as not being equal to the rest of the team or contributing anything of importance with comments like this.

Although it can be hard working with a casual workforce, why don’t we work with the strengths?

Firstly – I have a question of why are they casual actually? Have they worked for you regularly for 6 months? Have they been offered permanent part time? Is it a mutual agreement that suits you both? As long as it’s been discussed (more here https://www.fairwork.gov.au/employee-entitlements/types-of-employees/casual-part-time-and-full-time/casual-employees).

Are they casual as it suits the centre and it’s easier to change their shifts as per a changing roster? That’s great, but then we also need to be flexible back at them – why aren’t we more considerate and understanding that they will have pracs and holidays and time off? They are flexible with us and rostering – it’s a bit of a two way street.

The other assumption of ‘they’re only uni students’ is also another I’d like to delve in to. As mentioned above, we can subconsciously write them off as being equal to the rest of the team because they often have a ‘shelf life’ (e.g. we know they will leave after study is complete).

However, I always like to point out to others:

“Today the national average tenure in a job is 3.3 years (3 years and 4 months)”

https://mccrindle.com.au/insights/blog/job-mobility-australia/

This statistic is lower than the average time university OSHC workers stay at centres with most of us getting 4 years continuity with them. This is ABOVE the average for all workplaces in Australia. They are in fact staying longer. Which I think is a great thing. I also get excited when they mention they are going to study another Degree or do a Masters or further study. That’s even more continuity for the children in the staffing team.

Now speaking of continuity of care, this ties in with the National Quality Standards (NQS) of Quality Area (QA) 4 in Staffing Arrangements (below).

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https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-07/RevisedNQSHandoutA4.pdf

So we’ve already established these great casual uni OSHC educators can help with QA4.1.2 continuity of staff more than we realise.

What about the rest?

  • QA4.1.1 – how is the organisation of educators at the service? Have you got a variety of educators at the service with differing abilities and skills? Which can be helped with casual uni OSHC educators who often have a variety of different skills which will help support children’s learning and development (now this means we really need to ensure we do have a strong mix – not lots of ‘new inexperienced staff’ on shift, but a to also ensure more senior educators are also balancing out the centre). The casual uni OSHC educators are often more focused on the children than the centre (not a bad thing, remember, balance), so are likely more heavily engaged with the children, again, contributing to the learning and development, whilst I would find myself often caught up with the more admin type tasks or individual child items (answering phone, talking to parents, first aid, behaviour management, checking on educators, and so forth). As long as there is a balance.
  • QA4.1.2 – already covered above how casual uni OSHC educators can contribute to the continuity of educators, with many staying for 4 years (more than the national job average of tenure).
  • QA4.2.1 – if we are automatically subconsciously dismissing the value of casual uni OSHC educators, I don’t think we are really meeting ‘professional collaboration’. Are we showing mutual respect? Not really. It’s all about recognising each other’s strengths and skills (as it mentions) and what positive differences we can bring to a service. Again, balance and variety is key here. If we provide casuals with that equal respect, I’m sure you’ll notice more in return from them.
  • QA2.2 – Are we allowing professional standards to guide our practice, interactions and relationships if we are dismissive to the casual uni OSHC educators? If we already have an unconscious bias towards them? Frustrated they have pracs (hey – especially if we hire education students, we know that is going to happen)? If we are not valuing them as equal? Are we actually meeting this QA concept?

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked with A LOT of casual uni OSHC educators and have had my fair share of head banging against the wall moments. BUT I also get this with permanent or long term educators as well. As we work with teams, it is something that will always come up and as a leader something we have to work on and manage in our teams (we are working with people at the end of the day).

I’d like you to reflect on your team:

  • Is there a balance?
  • Are casuals equally respected?
  • Do they get the same training opportunities?
  • How are they considered for rostering? Are their preferences taken into account?
  • Do they get say in what happens?
  • Are they invited to staff meetings?
  • Have they been given guidance? Direction?
  • Do they receive staff appraisals / performance catch ups?
  • Do they have the opportunities to take on more responsibilities?
  • Are they given the chance to step up?
  • Are they given perm part time options?
  • Are we mindful of their own worlds and personal situations?

And so many other areas.

My take away is I want Managers / Directors / Coordinators / Team Leaders to be more mindful in their approach to their team. I mean we are teams anyways, we are meant to work together and some of my best educators have been casual uni OSHC educators (often with drive and passion and can outshine permanent or long term educators). Many of which end up becoming permanent educators, or end up staying in OSHC and moving on to being amazing senior members of the team or leaders at other centres (I’m very proud of all of them).

Dedicated to every casual OSHC educator I’ve worked with over the last 11 years. You’re all amazing!

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