Short­age of teach­ers

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Patrick Tansey

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?’’

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