Initially established in Victoria during 1977 as part of the Commonwealth Schools Commission Country Area Program, CEP has maintained a strong commitment to building the capacity of all rural and remote learning providers and their communities by supporting collaboration and the formation of local determined partnerships. Importantly the clustering model (Area committees in the early years) developed by CEP more than three decades ago, remains as a model of best practice for rural and remote education communities, through the encouragement of group planning and collaborative initiatives.
A central element of this approach was the intersystemic approach that the Country Education Partnership utilises. The three main education sectors including the government, catholic and independent sectors have always been equally involved in all levels of the project. Such an approach remains central to CEP today.
CEP started in Victoria with a number of rural and remote areas of the state being identified as “rurally isolated”. Known as “Areas”, a number of rural education and community organisations were encouraged to come together within defined geographic locations to explore the educational needs of their communities and develop learning initiatives that would support the improvement, and enhancement, of education provision within these communities. Known as “Area Committees”, these representative organisations were allocated Country Area Program resources to assist them in the development and implementation of the initiatives initiated and developed by their member education communities.
In the early days of CEP the number of “areas” were small but they grew over ten to fifteen years – the number of “areas” grew to around twenty, ensuring that the majority of communities who were located more than 130 kilometers from Melbourne and 25 kilometers from a regional centre of 10,000 population had the opportunity to be involved.
At a state level, CEP was initially overseen by a cross sectoral State-wide Planning Committee, followed by the Country Education Areas Association (CEAA), and later a Ministerial State Advisory Committee. These state-wide groups were supported by a state-wide secretariat located within the state Department of Education. This unit employed state and regional staff to support the ongoing development and operation of Area Committees. This state-wide structure also provided valuable rural policy and state-wide program initiatives for the education sectors and state government in relation to rural and remote education provision. Some of these initiatives are still in existence today.
In 1994 the Victorian State Government introduced system wide changes to the funding of all education organisations, which resulted in the Commonwealth Country Area Program funds being redistributed to individual, targeted rural and remote education organistions such as schools. This was achieved through their annual global budget as part of the Self Managing schools approach. These changes saw the disbanding of the local area committees and the state-wide and regional planning and support role.
In response to these changes the rural and remote education communities from across the state held extensive consultations in 1993, and as a result the Country Education Project was established in 1994 as a non-profit community organisation to represent and support improvements for rural and remote education. Throughout this process the committee of management worked hard to retain the independence of the organisation. Central to this belief was the view that innovation, advocacy and support of rural and remote education organisations, demanded a neutral, grass roots approach.
To support its work the Country Education Project Inc. established service agreements with the three education sectors to provide support for the operation of the committee of management and provide executive support for its work.
In 2012, CEP changed its name to better reflect the role that it undertakes within the rural and remote learning environment of today. While holding on to its strong brand of CEP, it changed its name to Country Education Partnership.
Consequently the history of CEP within this state has always been to work for and on behalf of all rural and remote education communities – not just “declared Country Area Program” government and non-government schools. As a result CEP plays a unique role, as an independent entity within the education sector of Victoria.
CEP is committed to collaborative and democratic processes; is active in supporting, developing and promoting innovative teaching and learning practices; has experience in networking with rural education organisations and their communities and is prepared to advocate to ensure the needs of rural and remote learning communities are considered in policy development.
CEP has an elected Management Committee, with membership comprising representatives from rural and remote education communities, as well as people with expertise and interest in rural and remote education. The committee meets regularly and directs the work of the organisation on behalf of the member education organisations.
CEP has a proven record in the development and implementation of new approaches to curriculum and professional development, as demonstrated by the range of successful projects it has undertaken at a local, state and national level. Some of these include:
- Development and production of the resource materials focusing on science and technology, literacy and maths
- Development of specific, and innovative, education programs. Eg Energy Breakthrough, E-Kids, Teaching Farms, Enterprise Learning, Group Activities in Primary Science, etc.
- Rural Education Bursaries and Scholarships
- Parents involvement programs in maths and literacy
- National Professional Development Program and National Rural Education Conference
- P-12 education support, professional development and research
- Post compulsory provision in rural communities
- Research projects specific to rural education
- Professional Development and Conference focusing on rural education
- Education forums on specific issues.
- The establishment of the Rural Educators Network focusing on teacher recruitment and retention initiatives, and the subsequent Rural School Centre of Teaching Excellence and Rural Teaching Academy
- Papers and submissions in relation to government policy impacting on rural education.
- The support of the eKids initiative – a framework to support the provision of learning through a blended learning approach.
- The provision of, and support of, education leadership within rural Victoria, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.
- The introduction of the Baillieu Myer Rural Education Leadership Scholarship
- A range of professional development activities; conference and experiences.
Whilst these projects highlight a strong practical understanding of current educational issues, they also focus on the development and implementation of solutions relevant to the needs of contemporary rural learning communities.
A significant development of CEP saw the introduction of Life Membership recognising those people who have provided significant support and involvement in enhancing the learning provision in rural and remote communities. The first of these Life Memberships was allocated in 2007 and a total of eight Life Memberships have been allocated thus far.
In addition, in 2008 CEP was pleased to announce that Mr Baillieu Myer AC was nominated as the organisations inaugural Patron. Mr Myer has had a long standing interest in rural and remote education where he has supported a number of initiatives to support the provision of education throughout rural and remote Australia. As an indication of his commitment to rural and remote education, he established the Baillieu Myer Rural Education Leadership Scholarship in 2009 in recognition of people from rural and remote learning communities who have provided outstanding contribution to the provision of rural and remote education.
Over recent times, CEP has been heavily involved in the development of a “framework” for the ongoing provision of rural and remote education within Victoria. In 2007, it developed the Working Together Framework which highlights a number of key areas of focus needed to ensure that rural education within Victoria is maintained at a high level. Key areas include:
whole of community, place based approaches to planning and development of education.
- supporting education provision through a collaborative cluster approach
- supporting the recruitment and retention of high quality education leaders and staff throughout rural Victoria
- supporting innovative and creative approached to the development and pro vision of learning.
This work has grown throughout this time with CEP having significant input into a range of government policies and reviews at a state and national level.
- the provision of education leadership development for remote community principals within the Northern Territory.
- Involvement within the Society for the Provision of Rural Education in Australia
- Rural Education Forum of Australia.
- facilitating national initiatives such as the AITSL pilots focusing on the new teacher standards for Australian teachers.
CEP has also developed strong links and relationships with rural organisation within other countries, thus providing an enrichment of knowledge and skills to support the learning provision within Victoria. Links with people and organisations within Canada, New Zealand, UK, Scotland, Scandinavia and USA have been developed and maintained.
There are approximately 400 education provision organisations throughout rural Victoria who are members of CEP. All these organizations are invited to become financial members of the Country Education Project – over 80% of eligible members are current financial members.
The Country Education Partnership has bestowed a number of Life Memberships on individuals who have provided valuable and significant contributions to the organisation over the past thirty five years.
Current Life Members include:
- Maureen Chiswell
- Ian Rogerson
- John Stafford
- Don Edgar
- Gary Allen
- Al Balfour
- Philip Scambler
- Wendy Graham