Award Guidelines

Help and information for applicants including common questions, detailed criteria and key dates.

1. Introduction

The Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards (Awards) are national awards open to registered teachers and school leaders at all Australian schools through a partnership between the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (ABN 48 123 123 124) (Commonwealth Bank) and Australian Schools Plus Ltd (ABN 65 164 622 459) (Schools Plus).

Twelve (12) registered teachers or school leaders are each awarded a ‘Teaching Fellowship’ valued at $45,000, with the majority being educators working in schools in disadvantaged communities.

The Awards are supported by the Commonwealth Bank and a key initiative of Schools Plus - the ‘Pioneers in Philanthropy’. The Pioneers in Philanthropy include David Gonski AC and Orli Wargon OAM, Angus James and Sarah James, John B Fairfax AO and Nick Fairfax, John Grill AO and Rosie Williams, Roger Massy-Greene AM, Kerry Stokes AC and the Commonwealth Bank.

2. Am I Eligible?

The Awards are open to all registered* teachers (hereinafter referred to as ‘teachers’) and school leaders in all Australian primary and secondary schools.

Teachers and school leaders working in schools in disadvantaged communities are particularly encouraged to apply.

An applicant should currently be practising as a teacher or school leader and to the best of their knowledge should intend to continue teaching in the same school in 2021.

The application form (Form) is to be completed by the teacher or school leader who is applying for, or who has been nominated for, the Awards. Forms not completed by the teacher or school leader will be considered ineligible.

A maximum of one (1) Form will be accepted per applicant.

The Form must be submitted between 9.00am (AEDT) on Monday, 14 September 2020 and 12 midnight (AEDT) on Friday, 16 October 2020.

*A registered teacher is a person who is registered or accredited to perform the duties of a teacher as defined by the relevant legislation in their Australian State or Territory.

3. About the Teaching Awards and Fellowship

Twelve (12) successful teachers or school leaders (Fellows) will be selected to receive a Teaching Fellowship, with the majority being teachers and school leaders who are working in schools in disadvantaged communities.

The Teaching Fellowships are valued at approximately $45,000 each and include:

  • $10,000 for each Fellow's professional development;
  • a group study tour to a high performing education system and/or schools (previous destinations have been Singapore in 2017 - 2019 with British Columbia, Canada planned for 2020 – postponed due to international travel restrictions.) The destination for 2021 is to be confirmed;
  • $25,000 for the Fellow’s school for a strategic project ($5,000 of which can be used for teacher release funding, if required). The strategic project should be designed to improve student outcomes at the Fellow’s school and be an evidence-based project with long-term measurable benefits. The strategic project may include, but is not limited to, extending an existing initiative that is having proven impact or a new strategic project; and
  • return economy travel and accommodation to attend the Awards Event and the Teaching Fellowship Introductory Workshop in Sydney on 18 and 19 March 2021 (dependent on any domestic travel restrictions).

Throughout 2021, the Fellowship will also include unique opportunities for the Teaching Fellows to engage with leading education experts and to develop networks, skills and capabilities through a series of experiences that form part of the Teaching Fellowship year.

The Fellows will also be invited to join an ongoing Teaching Fellows network that will grow every year, as each new group of Fellows is selected for the Awards.

4. Selection Criteria (with guiding questions)

Applications will be assessed on the demonstration of professional excellence and achievement across the Selection Criteria outlined below.

Teachers and school leaders who can demonstrate achieving significant outcomes for their students in more than one of the Selection Criteria are encouraged to apply.

A. Transforming Learning Outcomes

You are able to demonstrate your initiation of, or contribution to measurable, significant and ongoing improvements in student learning, achieved through identifying students' needs and applying high impact, effective and evidence-based teaching or leadership practices. Please include measurable evidence of how you have achieved improved learning experiences and outcomes for your students and the measures and evidence that demonstrate this achievement over time. (maximum 500 words)

Guiding questions you could consider in preparing your response:

  • To what extent have you introduced and applied innovative thinking and practice to learning and teaching?
  • How have your teaching and/or leadership practices been informed by evidence and research?
  • How have your practices brought about significant improvement in student learning experiences and outcomes and what has been the scale and reach of your work?
  • What evidence and measures do you have that demonstrate the changes that have been achieved as a direct result of your work?
  • In what ways has this improvement been ongoing or sustained?
  • What are students and/or teachers now doing differently as a direct result of your work?

Guiding structure you could consider:

  • The key issue or identified needs of your students and/or your school and how you assessed these.
  • What you are doing to transform learning outcomes and why you chose this strategy or strategies.
  • The results and impact of your activities or strategies and how you measured these.

B. Collaborating and Sharing Knowledge

You are able to demonstrate that you are contributing significantly to and/or leading a culture of collaboration and connectedness within and/or beyond the school. Please include evidence of how you have shared knowledge to create a professional learning culture that develops the skills of others, and the specific outcomes and collective impact that have resulted from this collaboration. (maximum 400 words)

Guiding questions you could consider in preparing your response:

  • In what ways is collaboration a feature of your work?
  • How have you facilitated a culture of collaboration for students, teachers, parents, community or other groups in ways that have resulted in significant improvements in collective learning and engagement?
  • What shared practices have changed as a result of your leadership and contributions?
  • How have you shared the learning and evidence gained through your innovative thinking and practice with colleagues at your school and/or with members of the education profession?

Guiding structure you could consider:

  • The key issue or identified needs of your students and/or your school and how you assessed these.
  • What you are doing to collaborate and share knowledge and why you chose this strategy or strategies.
  • The results and impact of your activities or strategies and how you measured these.

C. Engaging with the Community

You are able to demonstrate why and how you have fostered family and/or community engagement which has led to improved outcomes for students through purposeful and meaningful connections. Please include evidence of what changes occurred for students, parents and/or community members as a result of their improved engagement. (maximum 400 words)

Guiding questions you could consider in preparing your response:

  • Why and how have you engaged parents, families and/or the community as an important, deliberate and strategic approach to your work?
  • What changes have occurred in terms of parent and family engagement as a result of your work?
  • What are people now doing differently as a result of these changes?
  • What have been the demonstrable changes for students in terms of learning experiences and/or learning outcomes?
  • What are the overall benefits for students, your school and community that have occurred through these changes?

Guiding structure you could consider:

  • The key issue or identified needs of your students and/or your school and how you assessed these.
  • What you are doing to engage with families and/or the community and why you chose this strategy or strategies.
  • The results and impact of your activities or strategies and how you measured these.

D. Passionate and Committed to Teaching

You are able to demonstrate leadership in education, teaching and learning that stimulates the thinking of others and leads to significant educational improvements in classrooms and schools. Please tell us your story – how you have applied your personal attributes such as creativity, resilience, resourcefulness and drive; your capacity to inspire and influence others; why you’re committed to the teaching profession and your potential to help shape the future of education practice in Australia. (maximum 400 words)

Guiding questions you could consider in preparing your response:

  • What contemporary thinking is significantly informing your work and in what ways are you using this thinking?
  • What personal attributes help you to deliver on your purpose in education?
  • What have been your greatest achievements to date in the profession?
  • In what ways do you want to make a difference in education? What is your passion?

Guiding structure you could consider:

  • Tell us more about you - your understanding and demonstration of leadership in education and/or teaching; your personal attributes and professional achievements; your commitment to the profession and your potential to contribute to the Teaching Fellowship group.

5. Key Dates

Nominations open: Monday, 14 September 2020 (9.00am AEDT)
Nominations close: Friday, 16 October 2020 (12 midnight AEDT)
Shortlisted applicants notified: November 2020
Finalists notified: December 2020
Finalist interviews, referee and due diligence checks: December 2020 / January 2021
Award recipients notified: Friday, 5 February 2021
Awards Event and Fellowship Introductory Workshop in Sydney: Thursday, 18 and Friday, 19 March 2021
Teaching Fellowship group study tour: (Dates and destination TBC)

6. What is the Selection Process?

Eligibility check and assessment of applications

After the closing date, applications will be checked for eligibility. Assessment panels comprising of members with education and leadership expertise will independently assess and score applications against each of the Selection Criteria.

Finalist interviews, referee and due diligence checks

Finalists will be invited to attend an interview via teleconference. Finalists’ referees (Principals for teachers and supervisors for Principals) will also be contacted for reference checks. A working with children, due diligence and background check on all finalists will be undertaken.

Selection of Award recipients by Selection Panel

The selection panel for the Awards comprises senior education and business leaders (Selection Panel). Please see https://www.teachingawards.com.au/selection-panel for more information. The Selection Panel will meet in February 2021 to select the twelve (12) Fellows from a shortlist of finalists.

Announcement of Awards recipients

The Fellows will be notified immediately following the Selection Panel meeting in February and will be publicly announced at an Awards Event hosted by the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney on Friday 19 March 2021.

7. How do I Apply?

Applications can be submitted online by completing the Form via SmartyGrants, an online management system.

You will need to register and login to the online Awards application site, via the link provided below before starting your application. This will enable you to create, save and modify your Form before submission. Please note if you have previously registered with SmartyGrants, please use your existing login and password details. The link is: https://teachingawards.smartygrants.com.au/2021

After you have registered and received your login, follow the instructions to complete the Form online. You can save a draft of your Form and come back to it at any stage until you submit your application, when no further changes to your Form can be made.

Following submission, you will receive an email confirmation acknowledging receipt of your application.

Please note - Forms should be completed by the teacher or school leader applying for, or who has been nominated for, the Awards. Forms completed by the nominee will be considered ineligible.

8. Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Australian Schools Plus?

Schools Plus is a national charity that helps close the education gap by connecting donors with schools in need, to support projects that transform students' lives. They maximise the impact of donations by developing school leaders' capacity to design, deliver and evaluate strategic projects. The establishment of Schools Plus brought to life a recommendation in the 2011 Review of Funding for Schooling (the ‘Gonski Review’). More than 4,600 disadvantaged schools (government, Catholic and Independent) across Australia are eligible for support through Schools Plus. For more information, visit www.schoolsplus.org.au.

Who can nominate or apply?

Anyone can nominate a teacher or school leader for the Awards. Teachers or school leaders who are nominated will receive an email informing them of their nomination and inviting them to apply. A teacher or school leader can also apply themselves. Nominated teachers or school leaders or teachers or school leaders who wish to apply will need to complete the online Form themselves to be eligible for the Awards.

How do I nominate or apply?

You can nominate a teacher or school leader or apply yourself by selecting these options on the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards website. If you are applying, you will be directed to the online Form hosted by SmartyGrants. If you are nominating a teacher or school leader, you will need to enter their email address and your nominee will receive an email informing them of their nomination (anonymously if you prefer) and directing them to the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards website to complete the Form.

Can more than one teacher from the same school be nominated or apply?

Yes, an unlimited number of teachers can be nominated or can apply from each school.

Do I need my school Principal or supervisor’s permission to apply?

You should advise the Principal of your school (or your supervisor if you are a Principal) that you are applying for the Awards. Your Principal or your supervisor should be listed as your referee on your Form and will be contacted if you are shortlisted as a finalist.

What will I receive if I am selected as an Award recipient?

The selected Fellows will receive an award for a 12-month Teaching Fellowship, including the following components:

  • $10,000 for the Fellow’s professional development;
  • a group study tour for the 12 Fellows to a high performing education system and /or schools (dates and destination to be confirmed);
  • $25,000 for the Fellow’s school to develop a strategic project.

Please refer to Section 3 of the Award Guidelines for further information.

How can the Fellow use the $10,000 professional development funds?

The Fellow can use the $10,000 for their individual professional development and learning. This may include course fees, conference attendance, leadership coaching or a research or study project for example. Schools Plus will liaise with each Fellow to assist in identifying their choice of professional development opportunities.

What is the $25,000 prize for the Fellow’s school?

The Fellow’s school will receive $25,000 to develop a strategic project designed to improve student outcomes at their school. The strategic project should meet the needs of their students and/or school and be an evidence-based project with long-term measurable benefits. The funds might be used to extend an existing initiative that is having proven impact or a new strategic project. Schools Plus will liaise with your school to assist in the development of this project. Up to $5,000 of this amount can be used by the school for teacher release funding, if required, while the Fellow is participating in the Fellowship Program.

What is the Fellowship group study tour?

The twelve (12) Fellows will undertake a fully funded week-long group visit to a high performing education system or schools. Previous destinations were Singapore in 2017 – 2019 with British Columbia, Canada planned for 2020 (currently postponed due to Covid-19). The study tour is organised by Schools Plus and led by an education expert to observe high performing practices and systems.

What will the assessment panels look for in an application?

The written information provided in your Form is the main factor in selecting shortlisted finalists. You should check Section 4 of the Award Guidelines for tips on how to address each of the Selection Criteria. These tips include guiding questions as well as a guiding structure for your responses, which should be supported by clear evidence and specific examples.

What is evidence (‘please include evidence’) in the Selection Criteria?

You should give clear examples of what data or research you have used to inform your approach or to determine your activities or strategy and to demonstrate what has changed for your students and/or school. You should include examples of how you have achieved improved learning experiences and outcomes for your students and the measures or evidence that demonstrate this achievement.

Who will be selecting the Fellows?

Twelve (12) teachers or school leaders will be selected as Teaching Fellows from a shortlist of finalists by a panel of senior education and business leaders. Further details on the Selection Panel can be found on http://www.teachingawards.com.au/selection-panel.

When will I be notified?

All applicants will be notified on the status of their application as unsuccessful or shortlisted in November 2020. Shortlisted applicants will progress for further assessment and will be notified if they have been selected as a finalist in December 2020. The 12 successful Fellows will be notified following the Selection Panel meeting in February 2021 and will be publicly announced in Sydney on Friday, 19 March 2021 when a full list of the 2021 Teaching Fellows will be published on http://www.teachingawards.com.au.

What are the key dates?

Nominations for the Awards open at 9.00am (AEDT) on Monday,14 September 2020 and close at 12 midnight (AEDT) on Friday,16 October 2020. Finalists will be contacted in December 2020 with the Award recipients notified in early February 2021. The 2021 Teaching Fellows will be publicly announced on 19 March 2021 at the Commonwealth Bank Teaching Awards Event.

Can I submit a late application?

Applications will close at 12 midnight (AEDT) on Friday 16 October 2020. No late applications will be accepted via any means after this time.

Will I have to pay for travel and accommodation expenses to attend the Awards Event?

All travel and accommodation expenses for the Award recipients to attend the Awards Event in Sydney will be covered. Part of the Awards prize for your school can be used to cover any teacher release costs incurred on the days you are absent from your school.

9. Terms and Conditions of the Awards

  • 9.1. By applying for the Awards and submitting a Form, the Applicant accepts and agrees to be bound by these Award Guidelines, including these Terms and Conditions.
  • 9.2. The Applicant acknowledges and agrees that all material submitted by the Applicant in their Form must not, and the Applicant warrants that such material does not, infringe the copyright or other intellectual property rights of any person or organisation. The Applicant indemnifies the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus against any claim made against the Commonwealth Bank or Schools Plus that any use of the material submitted by the Applicant in their Form infringes the intellectual property rights of any person or organisation.
  • 9.3. The Applicant grants Schools Plus and the Commonwealth Bank a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable and transferable licence to reproduce, use, or modify any material contained in the Format Commonwealth Bank’s or Schools Plus’ (as relevant) discretion.
  • 9.4. The Applicant must declare on their Form that they have advised their Principal or supervisor that they have applied for the Awards.
  • 9.5. Applicants shortlisted as finalists should be available for an interview in late December 2020 and/or early January 2021 (specific times to be advised to Applicants on selection as a finalist).
  • 9.6. By submitting their Form, the Applicant agrees that they have never been charged with a criminal offence, subject to misconduct proceedings by their relevant State or Territory education body or subject to any process that may bring disrepute to the Commonwealth Bank or Schools Plus.
  • 9.7. By submitting their Form, the Applicant agrees to the Commonwealth Bank and/or Schools Plus (as relevant) conducting appropriate due diligence and background checks on the Applicant including, but not limited to:
    • 9.7.1. working with children checks; and
    • 9.7.2. reference checks with Applicant’s Principals or supervisors;
    • 9.7.3. National Police and Financial Crimes Checks (identifying specific or general involvement with money laundering, terrorism financing, politically exposed persons, terrorists and wanted criminals) by an independent third party; and;
    • 9.7.4. social media and internet search checks.
  • 9.8. Subject to any travel restrictions placed upon Fellows at the particular time, Fellows are required to be available to travel to Sydney for the Awards Event and the Introduction to the Fellowship workshop on 18 and 19 March 2021 and to participate in the Fellowship group study tour to a high performing education system or schools. The destination for the Fellowship group study tour for 2021 is to be confirmed.
  • 9.9. The Applicant acknowledges and agrees that all considerations, deliberations and decisions made by the Selection Panel in relation to the Awards including but not limited to, the award of the Teaching Fellowship are final and the Selection Panel is under no obligation to disclose or communicate to or otherwise discuss with the Applicant the nature of such considerations, deliberations and decisions.
  • 9.10. Before distribution of the Teaching Fellowship to each Fellow, the Fellow and the Fellow’s school will sign an acceptance letter from Schools Plus that sets out the further terms and conditions for the award of the Teaching Fellowship.
  • 9.11. The Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus may use, disclose and promote (and all Fellows and their schools acknowledge and agree) information about the Fellow and their school, and share the stories and any other information provided by the Fellow. They may do so on various Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus related promotional material, general media, online, social media, communication and marketing mediums (Materials).
  • 9.12. The Fellows acknowledge and agree that all copyright in the Materials rests with the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus and the Fellows and their schools are not entitled to remuneration, royalties, or any other payments in respect to the use of the Materials by the Commonwealth Bank or Schools Plus for any purpose.
  • 9.13. The Fellows may be required to attend a presentation of the Teaching Fellowship at their school to which persons including, but not limited to, local media, public personalities, and members of the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus will be invited to attend. An appropriate date and time for this presentation will be coordinated with the Fellow, subject to the commercial needs of the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus. Fellows may (at the discretion of the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus) be required to do press interviews and photography to help promote the Awards.
  • 9.14. All personal information (as defined in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth)) (Personal Information) included in the Form and collected by the Commonwealth Bank or Schools Plus in connection with the Awards is collected for the purposes of administration and promotion of the Awards. The Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus may disclose any Personal Information they collect in connection with the Awards to each of its related bodies corporate and to external service providers, entities and organisations undertaking any of the Commonwealth Bank’s and/or Schools Plus’ functions and obligations in respect of the Awards. All Personal Information collected by the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus in connection with the Awards will be collected, used, and disclosed in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) and the privacy policies of Schools Plus and the Commonwealth Bank which can be found, respectively, at; https://www.schoolsplus.org.au/privacy-policy/ and https://www.commbank.com.au/security-privacy/general-security/privacy.html?ei=footer_privacy (Privacy Policies). The Privacy Policies contain further details about the Commonwealth Bank’s and Schools Plus’ information collection and handling processes including information about how to seek access and correction of the Personal Information and how to make a complaint and complaint handling procedures. For privacy related queries, Applicants can contact the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus using the methods set out in the respective Privacy Policies.
  • 9.15. Any waiving of the requirements contained in these Award Guidelines and these Terms and Conditions (including the Selection Criteria) is at the discretion of the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus.
  • 9.16. By applying for the Awards, Applicants discharge and release the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus from all liabilities or claims of any kind arising from or in connection with the Awards and the Fellowship. Applicants also indemnify the Commonwealth Bank from any claims arising from third parties in relation to the Applicant’s participation in any stage or aspect of the Awards and the Fellowship.
  • 9.17. To the extent permitted by law, the Commonwealth Bank, Schools Plus and their related bodies corporate and their respective directors, officers, employees and agents, exclude any and all liability for any loss or damage, whatsoever which is suffered or sustained, in connection with:
    • 9.17.1. the Applicant’s participation in the Awards; or
    • 9.17.2. the receipt or use of the Teaching Fellowship by a Fellow or anyone participating in the use of the Teaching Fellowship with the Fellow
  • 9.18. These Award Guidelines and these Terms and Conditions are subject to modification by the Commonwealth Bank and Schools Plus at their sole discretion.
  • 9.19. These Award Guidelines, these Terms and Conditions shall be governed by the laws of New South Wales, Australia and the Commonwealth Bank, Schools Plus and each Applicant submits to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of New South Wales, Australia.