Shortage of teachers
Concerns are brewing rural schools are missing out on quality staff and, if they do have them, are struggling to retain them.
The Country Education Partnership, which represents the interests of rural and remote education, believes the battle to draw quality staff to country schools had become critical.
‘‘We are hearing more and more from our education communities that they simply can’t fill vacancies and, in many cases, are not even attracting applications, especially in those hard-to-staff curriculum areas, like science, maths and performing arts,’’ CEP chief executive Phil Brown said.
‘‘In the end, it is the students who suffer, it is their education that is affected and yet we still get questioned why there is a widening gap between urban and rural education outcomes.’’
Cobram’s St Joseph’s Primary School principal Lucy Keath said although her school was fortunate, she understood why it could be challenging to hire outstanding staff in rural areas.
‘‘We’ve been able to retain quality staff so we are lucky, but I imagine attracting people to the area could be difficult,’’ she said.
‘‘I think in most instances, university students that have been in bigger cities like Melbourne and Bendigo become accustomed to those locations and they want to stay there and perhaps they don’t realise the learning scope and leadership experience they could get from a small school.’’
While acknowledging a large percentage of staff at St Joseph’s were from the surrounding local area, Ms Keath believed creating an environment where staff wanted to remain was paramount to retaining them.
‘‘I would hope that our staff continue to feel like they’re on a learning journey and that they can continue to learn with the kids as we go into the 22nd century with them.’’
Nathalia Secondary College principal John Sciacca said the issues at his school were more concerning.
‘‘It’s plain and simple, the vast majority of graduates do not want to come out to a rural setting (and) I guess you could say it’s because there’s no carrot to lure them out,’’ he said.
‘‘We need incentives — we need a system approach offering incentives well beyond what is currently offered so that we (rural schools) stand a chance.
‘‘And that goes for mature teachers transitioning into the industry as well; we’ve heard all about this push to recruit teachers from other fields, which is really good, but what is being done to then encourage them into a position in a rural setting?’’