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, and their work has expanded in recent times to providing support to rural and remote communities in other states of Australia through the formation of partnerships with key rural and remote education organisations within these states.
CEPs work is also recognised at an international level, especially in relation to its work in supporting rural and remote communities in providing high quality education.
Throughout its existence, the Country Education Partnership has a core belief that supporting a whole of community approach to the development and provision of education within rural and remote communities through the formation of locally determined, cross sectoral, clusters and partnerships is key.
This clustering model (Area committees in the early years) developed by CEP more than four decades ago, remains as a model of best practice for rural and remote education communities, and remains the cornerstone of a number of rural and remote education communities in providing education.
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 came together within defined geographic rural 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, whole of community organisations were allocated Country Area Program resources to assist them in the development and implementation of the initiatives identified 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 had the opportunity to be involved.
At a state level, the Country Education Partnership was initially overseen by a cross sectoral State-wide Advisory Committee who provided advice to the government of the day, as well as working in partnership with the three education sectors in supporting rural and remote communities across the state to provide quality education.
Rural and remote education communities provided valuable input into the work and direction of CEP through the Country Education Areas Association (CEAA),
These state-wide groups were supported by a state-wide secretariat who engaged state and regional staff to support the ongoing development and operation of Area Committees within rural and remote communities across the state. This state-wide structure also provided valuable policy input 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 through individual school global budgets. These changes saw the disbanding of the local Area committees and the state-wide and regional planning and support role, along with the disbanding of the state-wide Advisory Committee.
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 Inc 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 and ensure that the needs and desires of rural and remote communities were represented at state and national levels of government and education sectors. 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, Country Education Project changed its name to better reflect the role that it evolved into 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.
In addition, the work of the Country Education Partnership has expanded into other states of Australia, where the organisation has developed strong partnerships with rural and remote focused organisations and education sectors to provide support for rural and remote education communities in many other states.
Country Education Partnership 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.
The history of CEP 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 Australia.
At a governance level, the Country Education Partnership is managed by a Committee of Management, 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 and is chaired by an invited chair.
Central to the Country Education Partnerships approach is the development of locally determined, collaborative and cross sectoral partnerships, or clusters, to ensure that these communities are provided with the education provision they need and desire. Specifically this work focused on:
- actively supporting, developing and promoting innovative teaching and learning practices aimed at enhancing learning opportunities and improving education outcomes for children and young people;
- networking with a range of stakeholder organisations to ensure that rural and remote education is represented, and
- advocating to governments and education sectors to ensure the needs of rural and remote learning communities are considered in policy development.
CEP has a proven record in the development and implementation of a range of programs and services to enhance and improve education provision across rural Australia. 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, and Rural Inspire.
- Rural Education Bursaries and Scholarships
- Parent involvement programs in maths and literacy
- National Professional Development Program and National Rural Education Conferences
- P-12 education support, professional development and research
- Post compulsory provision in rural communities
- Research projects specific to rural education
- Professional Development and Conferences focusing on rural and remote education
- Education forums on specific issues relevant to rural and remote education communities
- 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 establishment of a Rural Student Agency initiative to inspire rural and remote young people in realising their dreams – Rural Inspire
- Co-ordination of the highly successful Energy Breakthrough program
- The provision of, and support of, education leadership programs 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 initiatives 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 and remote 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, the Country Education Partnership has been heavily involved in the development of a “Rural Education Framework” for the ongoing provision of rural and remote education within Victoria. In 2007, it developed the Working Together Framework which highlighted a number of key areas of focus needed to ensure that rural education is maintained at a high level. The Working Together Framework was further developed during 2015 and 2016 with the resultant “Rural Education Framework” being released in December, 2016.
A copy of the Framework is available through the link: Rural Education Framework Discussion Summary 2016 (4)
The Rural Education Framework is underpinned by two key principles:
- locally determined cluster and partnerships as a key strategy in supporting the development and provision of education in rural and remote communities, and;
- inspiring young people in rural and remote communities to chase, and realise, their dreams.
The Framework also outlines the four key areas of support that Country Education Partnership believes are key to the successful provision of a quality education into the future:
- creative and innovative learning provision approaches;
- recruitment and retention of a quality workforce;
- supporting the development of quality rural education leadership appraoches;
- enhancing rural youth aspirations.
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