Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Education


School of Education


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Graeme Lock


It is perhaps fair to say that the relief (substitute) teacher should be viewed as an extremely important educational resource, Reviewed literature spanning the better part of twenty years indicates that in parts of Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, many students spend as much as one full year (or more) of their K-12 education having curriculum delivered to them by these individuals. Unfortunately, the literature also indicates that many relief teachers are still viewed by many as less than "real" teachers in terms of perceived competence, skill and capability. In addition to this, the existence of a number of pervasive, enduring systemic problems have been identified as being present in the educational systems of the abovementioned regions, which have been seen to impact negatively on the relief teacher, making the difficult job they do, even more arduous. There is reason to hypothesise that as a result of exposure to these problems, relief teachers could be expected to suffer from feelings of alienation and further "disconnection" from tenured (or contracted) colleagues, and that this may further marginalise them from the rest of the greater educational community. The purpose of this study was to ascertain whether feelings of alienation were present in relief teachers servicing Western Australian government metropolitan primary schools, and if so, what they identified as contributing to those feelings. Additionally the research attempted to ascertain what (if any) support strategies for relief teachers were actually offered by the schools that had been serviced by the subject population. The research itself was qualitative in nature, using semi-structured interviews as the main data gathering tool, with twenty "currently serving" relief teachers being interviewed. The current study established strong positive links between feelings of alienation in the subject population and exposure to a number of major systemic problems, which currently exist within the educational "system" of this state. The present research also identified a number of support strategies offered by some schools, which indicates some cognisance of the problems faced by relief teachers during the course of their work. " As a result of the research findings, several recommendations for further action emerged. Implementation of these should, logically, go some considerable way toward reducing feelings of alienation and disconnection among relief teachers, and more importantly augmenting their effectiveness as an arguably increasingly important educational resource.

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