Traditionally, when schools are searching for relief teachers for the day, the process involves making endless phone calls to a list of pre-approved teachers until the school strikes gold and finds one who happens to be free that day. Some schools even use recruitment agencies to find temp staff for the day. Both of these processes are extremely time consuming and cost a lot of money.
Australian startup ClassCover has taken both of these activities and streamlined them into one simple and easy to use platform. Essentially the ClassCover system connects a school directly with its list of pre-approved teaching staff allowing it to see their real-time availability which in turn means those teachers can be booked directly through the platform in a matter of seconds, avoiding the long ring-around activities and doing away with additional agency fees.
The startup was founded by Peter Carpenter and Ben Grozier. The solution was created from problems the pair had experienced first hand working in and around schools and recruitment agencies.
“My co-founder Ben Grozier is a relief teacher and would often get called for work multiple times every day, not knowing that he had already been booked elsewhere,” says Carpenter. “In addition I have contracted for IT projects through recruitment agencies and so we knew there was an opportunity to provide an alternative solution to the traditional short term or casual recruitment process”.
Over 75 percent of relief teacher work is booked at the last minute, so knowing a teacher’s availability in real-time is critical to removing wasted phone calls and guaranteeing a relief teacher will be secured for classes that day.
From a UX perspective, the platform is quite simple to use. Teachers create a free profile that includes their contact information, experience and training, references and their availabilities. Schools are then able to access this database picking the teachers they would like to shortlist. When a school needs to find a relief teacher, it creates a work request and the ClassCover platform sends an SMS to the chosen teachers in a prioritised order enabling user-defined delay times between when each message is sent.
“Once a teacher accepts, booking confirmations are simultaneously sent via SMS to the school and the relief teacher, whilst automatically updating the school’s calendar and payroll report,” says Carpenter.
The platform has been developed in-house by the startup’s own team. It is web-based and also available as applications on iOS and Android devices.
The way ClassCover makes money is via a subscription model, where they charge schools on a per student basis starting at $1.20 per student per year. While relief teachers get to create a free profile, there is also the ability for them to upgrade to a premium account that gives them additional benefits including access to unlimited professional development courses.
Building a two-sided marketplace in the education space, whilst challenging, has surprisingly been quite organic for the ClassCover team. The relief teacher side of the marketplace grows each time a new school signs on to use the platform – this is because its pool of pre-approved relief teachers are automatically added. This has allowed the team to prioritise selling directly to schools.
After an initial BETA test in the market with a dozen schools in late 2012, ClassCover went to market in early 2013 with an initial focus on selling to Sydney based schools. The startup was also selected to take part in an Australian accelerator program but chose to withdraw in the last minute. It decided to focus instead on continuing to build traction. Currently ClassCover has 450 schools using the platform and 19,000 users across Australia New Zealand and Singapore.
The startup has been primarily self-funded although raised a small amount of seed capital at the beginning of last year. This allowed it to recognise opportunities regarding international expansion.
The market opportunity for the startup is quite a large one; between Australia and New Zealand, there are 12,000 schools and over 170,000 relief teachers. Even though the focus for the startup is the ANZ region, international expansion is on the horizon.
“We are currently in discussions with partnerships opportunities in the UK that will give us exposure to the 25,000 schools and initiate our global expansion” says Carpenter.
“In addition, our focus has always been to first of all get the model right in education before moving onto providing a platform for casual staffing in other industries. Whilst we still have our sights on education, the first opportunity came about sooner than expected through the NSW Justice Department.
“We have recently secured a contract to rollout an extended version of the platform across NSW to the Juvenile Correctional Centres to assist in the management of their casual staff. This is a great win for the team and the first in a number of verticals that we are exploring as potentially viable options to expand into”.