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Start of school checklist – 7 tips to get your year started!

As the year draws to a close, schools and their staff are organising themselves for the new school year. Changes of work place, new or altered working hours and contracts – even beginning the journey as a new teacher – they all require you to understand what you are about to do and where to get the support you deserve.

The IEU is the ideal support team for teachers and education support staff. We are independent of your school, we are industrial relations specialists and we understand your Enterprise Agreement (EA) so we can independently advise you on your pay, conditions, leave, classification and contracts.

So why would you need a ‘start of school checklist’?

Whether you are a new teacher, a long serving teacher or education support officer, before the start of each year you should check all the details of your contract, pay and conditions and classifications.

This start of school checklist is a prompt for you now so that you can be on top of any issues, preferably before they occur.

1. Encourage non-members to join the Independent Education Union (SA)

A union is a group of workers who have agreed to collectively use their strength and pool their resources, to give people a voice in the workplace and bargain for fair pay and conditions. More IEU members in your school means your collective voice is louder. Union membership is a vital resource in helping you navigate the world of employment and it is there to assist you should you encounter any difficulties in your employment. The IEU is the union that represents teachers and support staff in the non-government sector. IEU Organisers can visit your school and discuss IEU membership with non-members – simply contact us to confirm a date and time that suits.

2. Double check your pay and conditions

Check your letter of appointment or contract that lays out many of your conditions of employment – for example, whether your job is fixed term, temporary or permanent, the reasons for you’re the classification, what your hours of work are, etc. The contract or letter should also refer to the Enterprise Agreement (EA) that applies, and if there is no EA, the relevant modern award should be referenced.

Make sure you agree with the classification specified in your letter of appointment and that you have provided all documentation required by your employer – such as statements of service, copies of your qualifications, etc. If you are not familiar with the classification, check the rate of pay and the definition in the EA to ensure there are no misunderstandings. Your IEU organiser can assist you with understanding classifications and rates of pay.

3. Investigate what Professional Learning (PL) opportunities are available to you

As a teacher, you need to complete a mandatory set hours of PL (60 hours over three years). This means you should find out what PL is available to you. The IEU provides free PL on a range of topics including behaviour management, anxiety and safety, through our online PL partner – Teacher Learning Network – and through PL sessions held at the IEU Office.

4. Are you a new teacher?

Find out what kind of induction program your school has put in place for you. Early career teachers should expect their school to have a structured induction program in place to assist you in your transition into the profession. It is important that you are provided with an overview and timetable of the induction process. This program should be developed and sufficiently resourced according to your needs.

Models of Best Practice include being allocated a mentor teacher who is able to commit to regularly meet with you throughout the year to provide support and help guide you through your induction process.

You should be provided with clear employment-related information. This should include, and may not be limited to:

• duty statement
• documents relating to ethos and mission of the school
• superannuation entitlements and options
• salary and conditions entitlements
• provision of training in school policies
• procedures and general expectations
• duty of care
• mandatory reporting responsibilities and teacher/parent communication.

5. Find out whether you can access ‘release’ time as a first year teacher

If you are employed in a permanent or temporary role, many employers allow you time off class to work on your programming, attend PL, and participate in coaching or mentoring. Your entitlement may be set out in school policies.

Do not miss out on what has been achieved for you by not knowing it was available!

Tim Oosterbaan is the Preservice Teacher coordinator for IEU(SA) – contact our office if you need assistance – 8410 0122.

6. Clean up and lock down your social media profiles

A recurring issue that affects even experienced teachers is their personal social media accounts becoming public knowledge.

Fair or not, past posts and comments can be dredged up and personal, controversial or inappropriate statements may be used against you.

This advice isn’t to scare you away from using social media, as there are numerous professional networks and resources available across all platforms, including a number facilitated by the IEU.

You may wish to create a ‘professional profile’ to participate in these forums and keep your personal posts on a separate profile – possibly under a pseudonym.

Even then, it is still recommended that you be cautious when posting online, particularly with regards to sensitive or employment related topics where you or your employer could be identifiable. Never friend or follow past or present students on social media platforms.

Remember, whatever you post online IS in a public domain and it can be there forever.

7. A final word – keep your documents safe

You may not realise but your documents at work may not be accessible if access to your email is closed off for any number of reasons.

Keep all your documents in a safe place and backup copies to your own cloud storage or a personal storage device, as well as keeping a hard copies offsite. You can also forward emails and documents to your home email as backup, provided you aren’t breaching confidentiality.

Every workplace is different, so speak to your IEU Organiser about what provisions are in your EA.

Fixing these 7 matters should help you to enjoy your summer break and come back ready to go in 2021.

Contact the IEU if you have any questions – 8410 0122 or enquiries@ieusa.org.au

Originally published in Newsmonth, February 2020 by IEU NSW/ACT