The project rEEYplace was created to overcome the daily demands caused by the absence of permanent staff and teachers in the Cyprus public education system. Permanent employees may fall ill, take maternity or paternity leave or take leave of absence, for example. Until recently this duty, among the competences of the Educational Service Commission (ESC), was carried out via a process that was very time consuming, inefficient and stressful. This affected both the ESC staff and the candidates who were supposed to replace the absentees, with a negative impact on the operation of public schools.
The main goal of the project was to maintain the smooth operational flow of public schools by ensuring that they had the substitute teachers as soon as possible. This needed to be within a more efficient, flexible and transparent framework so the ESC IT department was asked to modernise and optimise the procedures followed by the ESC. This resulted in rEEYplace, the Internet Application for the Automatic Processing of Substitute Teacher Needs in Public Schools, which was developed in-house.
This new system enables each candidate to see, on a daily basis, all the needs for substitutes in their specialisation, which are initially posted on the ESC website. Then, through the government portal Ariadne, candidates can submit an application selecting only the schools that interest them, in order of preference.
The ESC IT department has conceived, implemented and deployed software that distributes the substitutions automatically, based on the candidates’ selection order and their ranking on the Table of Appointees of their specialisation. The result of this distribution is sent immediately to candidates via SMS and email, and they also have access to the whole applications and preferences history. Since a significantly larger number of replacement candidates are allowed to participate in the process, their chances of employment are increased, too.
As a result, all the manual and heavy workload that was previously required is now handled more efficiently by a single person. This allows for the reorganisation, acceleration and optimisation in other areas of ESC’s functions, enhancing productivity and allowing its employees to deal with other pending issues. The new process does not require a waste of paper or printer ink and, being developed in-house, is also free of cost.
The project had an even more significant role if we consider that the operation of rEEYplace coincided with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to a rapid increase in the number of replacement needs in public schools and at the same time, ESC operated with 80 % of its staff working remotely. Without rEEYplace, hundreds of students would have been deprived of the presence of a teacher in their classroom. This is the strongest indication of rEEYplace’s operational acuteness, success and endurance.
rEEYplace serves as a valuable example of how governments and organisations may set up programmes and take advantage of digitisation. This can improve their efficiency, without burdening their financial position with further costs and with a medium- to long-term return on budget, year after year.