There are lists of tasks, jobs to be done, things to organise, assignments to do, placements to complete. The stress. The frustration. Where to start?
You’re a fourth year education student and nothing is okay.
Let me tell you, you are not alone, comrade. And sadly for you, your university is probably not going to wrap it in a nice, teacher-shaped package for you with some kitschy bows and ribbons to make things simple. So, I thought I would try my hand at making an easy (or not so easy) checklist of things to get done before the year is out and before commencing your teaching career. I completed my Bachelor of Education (Primary R-7)/ Bachelor of Arts at the end of 2014 at Flinders University in SA, and this post is predominantly aimed at people in a similar position to myself who are aiming for employment with DECD in SA, and may not be planning on applying for a specific teaching contract, but rather are looking at starting TRT work in the new school year with long term goals of gaining contract work/permanency.
First and foremost, do not worry about gaining employment and completing “the checklist” now. Focus on your final placement. Be amazing. Make an impression. Gain as much as you possibly can from your practicum and build solid relationships with your mentor, other school staff and leadership. If I hadn’t done this on my final placement I would seriously have struggled to get TRT work in first term this year, and if you are one of the many people who don’t get that elusive teaching contract in your first year out, the more bridges you have established early on, the better off you will be down the track. Don’t forget to identify who the relief coordinator is at your school, this person may just become your best friend later on. So here is check-point number 1:
- Make the most of placement
Imagine now, that it is six weeks down the track and you have completed your final placement. You have the mid-year break and one final semester to go, and yet you still have that daunting feeling that there are still so many things to do before you graduate. You want to use your break time to a) make some much needed money after 6 weeks of full-time unpaid work, b) binge watch all your favourite television shows (Game of Thrones, am I right?!), and c) actually make some headway with the pre-graduation checklist of things to do despite having no idea what that actually entails because uni wants you to drown trying to figure it out solo.
Which brings me to the next set of tasks you need to do in the lead up to finishing uni:
- Formally register your interest for teaching in the next school year
When you want to teach in a DECD school there are several things you have to have to be considered “qualified”. The most significant is the “Letter of Authority to Teach”, which is a document you receive directly from the department. To get this, you must complete an online application on the DECD website in which you upload all you necessary documentation as you complete it. I.e. first aid, RAN training certificate, provide references, contact details, previous work experience etc. You can begin this application process at any time and can come back and edit it whenever you have something new to add, until you have all the necessary things completed. If you “save and submit” on this online form, you may receive an email that indicates your application has been unsuccessful, this just means that you still have further documents to add (which as previously mentioned, you can do at any time).
- Register with the Teachers Registration Board of South Australia
The TRB is an independent organisation that assesses your eligability to teach. You have to register with the TRB to teach in any school, and you need to be registered to receive your Authority to Teach letter from DECD.
The TRB requires the following supporting documentation (certified copies or originals):
You can find the TRB application form below, but I would recommend downloading directly from the TRB website to ensure you have the most up-to-date version. It is critical that you read this form very carefully as the TRB will repeatedly make you resubmit if there are any issues. Also note that you do not have to do this AFTER completing your degree. The form states:
You can submit your application for registration at anytime during your final semester. There is no closing date to lodge an application. You must enclose certified copies of all required documentation, together with an unofficial statement of results for your current studies. When you receive your final official academic transcript, this transcript, or a certified copy, stating completion/conferral date of the Award, must be submitted to the Board. Applications for registration will only be finalised when all requirements are met. You are not permitted to teach until provisional registration has been granted.
Teacher’s Registration Board Application Form
The sooner you submit this application the better, this way once you receive your official transcript from uni, only a minor update to your application is required for your registration to be processed. Note that when you submit the application you will be required to pay the registration fee of $355 (for 3 year registration).
You need to print the form as a hard copy and submit either:
-by post to
Teachers Registration Board of South Australia
PO Box 3649
-or submit your application in person to:
Teachers Registration Board of South Australia
Level 6, 70 Pirie Street
ADELAIDE SA 5000
While perusing these documents, you may have noticed the requirement to do a full-day/7-hour Mandatory Notification Training Course or Responding to Abuse and Neglect (RAN) training course. Naturally, this is the next point on the checklist.
- Complete full-day RAN Training
Here is a fun-fact: If you join the Australian Education Union (SA Branch) for a measly annual fee of $22 you can get your your RAN training for free. Plus, the AEU run the day really well and you even get morning tea, what a bonus! You can find their list of dates for 2015 here.
AEU Student Member Application Form
I did my training in the September sessions, which allowed plenty of time to get my TRB form in early, but the earlier the better.
And while we are on the topic of training that you are required to do to get your ‘Authority to Teach’ letter, let’s talk first aid. DECD has a list of acceptable first aid certificates you can use to qualify.
- Complete First Aid certification
If you have not already done your first aid training, then the best option is the DECD BELS (basic emergency life support) certificate. The reason this one is the best is because it is geared specifically to teachers and how to respond to first aid situations in a school setting, on school-sized humans. The training is $95 through Red Cross, and you can do the 180 minute online training, followed by a 3-4 hour practical session.
So let’s imagine for a moment that you have filled in all you details on the DECD online ‘Register Interest for Teaching’ form. You have completed your first aid and RAN training and have uploaded those documents to your online form. You have made certified copies of all the necessary documentation and sent off you hard copy of the TRB application booklet to the Teacher’s Registration Board. Then suddenly, that wonderful day comes along when the final assignment is submitted and you are finally free from university.
Now you must wait.
Once your grades have been confirmed, your university will inform you that your official academic transcript is available. Typically it costs $10 (Flinders) for a hard copy via post and you will need to contact your university as soon as possible so that you receive it immediately.
Success, the transcript has arrived safely (kudos, Australia Post). You make a certified copy. You send it or deliver it directly to the TRB. Low and behold, your registration is confirmed. You receive a certificate of registration. You attach that to your DECD online application and submit. BAM, you receive an updated email from DECD – Authority to Teach: accepted. Guess what? You are now qualified. You can legally walk in to a school and teach the tiny humans. Congratulations!
Be aware that although the TRB does their own police check, schools will typically ask you to provide your Working with Children Check (Police Clearance) when you commence employment, so ensure you have one that is up-to-date.
So in summary of that, my final points:
- Ensure Working with Children Check is up-to-date
- Submit official academic transcript to TRB to finalise registration process
- Attach certificate of registration to complete DECD online application process
For those of you who are intending to become a TRT, there are a couple of additional things you may like to know. The problem with being a graduate looking for TRT work is that you don’t have a specific line manager in the same way someone on a contract at a particular school does, and as such you don’t have that mentor guiding you on all the formalities of starting work. Uni certainly doesn’t prepare you for relief work, everything is targeted at full-time work and having your own class. I was very fortunate that my first relief day was at my final prac school, where I had really supportive staff members to guide me through the process. You are also very lucky, because you have me, and my worldly advice (ha!).
So here are a couple more of the formal things to know/do before commencing TRT work:
- Call the IT desk and get your login for LearnLink/Email
Their phone number is 8204 1866 and you will need your DECD ID which is a 7 digit number found on your ‘Authority to Teach’ letter. Be prepared to wait on the phone for a while because DECD receive a high volume of IT calls, unfortunately you can only get your login details over the phone. Your DECD email is very important as you will receive all your payslips, DECD updates and information through this address.
- Send your bank details and tax form to Shared Services SA
All DECD pays are handled by Shared Services SA, specifically Payroll 5, and it is necessary for you to send the bank details form I have attached below, as well as a tax file form that you can pick up at your local newsagent to start receiving pay from the department.
Payroll 5 Bank Details Form
- Create a simple resume and cover letter (and business cards)
If you have not already lined up TRT work you may want to create a two-page resume and cover letter that you can email or deliver to schools in your area, along with your documentation. Ensure you capitalise on those vital connections you made during placements to secure work. Be aware that the first five weeks of term one are always going to be relatively slow for TRT work as most teachers are rejuvenated from the holiday break, want to be with their new class as much as possible, and coordinator roles are not yet filled etc. With that in mind, do not feel like there is something wrong with you if you don’t get a call right away. Business cards are really useful to keep on you so that when you are in school you can do a pigeon hole drop, or leave them for teachers you relive for, especially if you haven’t met them before. When that first relief day does role around, don’t hesitate to ask the deputy principal/relief coordinator for any further help. Typically schools have a sign in for relief teachers where you indicate what class you are in and what fraction on the day you are there for (half or full day), this is what will be processed for your pay. You will also need to collect a classroom key and a school information pack (usually with a map, bell times, behaviour policy, student allergies etc.).
There are also a whole host of communities and websites out there, especially Facebook groups like Relief Teaching Ideas (and their extended community), Fleurieu Teacher Talk and Teacher’s Inspire that are there to give you further support and advice.
So, with all this in mind, make the most of your final placement and semester. There is a lot to do, and I remember feeling like the list was never-ending. But if you follow this checklist and take things one-at-a-time, you will be teaching before you know.
Good luck, young padawan!