In the large majority of rural and remote communities across Victoria, education settings are deeply embedded within their local communities and are interwoven into their fabric. While they provide real advantages for both rural and remote communities and their learners, they are often challenged in the provision of learning that children and young people need and desire in achieving their career pathways and dreams especially as a result of:
- Decreasing populations, especially of school age children and young people;
- Changing demographics due to cheaper housing being available;
- Difficulty of recruiting and retaining quality educators and education leaders.
These have a direct impact on the learning opportunities and choices that children and young people are provided with especially in curriculum areas such as post compulsory, early years, specialist areas (eg Science, LOTE, technology) and access to enhancement learning opportunities such as Scienceworks, Museum, etc.
Over many years, these communities have utilised the concept of clusters and partnerships to facilitate the broad range of education programs and initiatives to accommodate these challenges, as well as supporting education leaders and staff in providing collegiate and professional learning.
These arrangements have been decreasing over the past 15 to 20 years as a result of greater autonomy and self-managing policies resulting in education organisations operating much more as individual identities.
However, a growing interest amongst rural and remote communities in recent times has seen several of them re-exploring the concept of clustering as a key strategy to support the provision of high quality teaching and learning within these communities, thus providing a foundation upon which enhanced learning opportunities can be provided, and improved education outcomes possible.
Over the years, the Country Education Partnership has learnt a great deal from these initiatives and the significant impact they have on the learning opportunities for children and young people within these rural and remote communities. The sharing of human and financial resources; the development of innovative programs; the use of communication technology; and the involvement in cluster wide professional learning and development are some examples as to the value of clustering.
In addition, Country Education Partnership has developed strong partnerships with key education leaders who are undertaking similar work within other states of Australia and other countries. As a result, it has developed strong relationships with people such as Maggie Farrar, Steve Munby, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves who have provided valuable support, advice and on many occasions facilitation of workshops and forums.
Country Education Partnership supports a number of these clusters in exploring innovative approaches that explore key areas such as:
- Shared education leadership approaches;
- Collegiate professional learning and growth initiatives;
- Combined approach to the provision of learning programs;
- Shared resources – human, physical and financial;
- Strong school and community partnerships.
As part of this work in recent years, the Country Education Partnership has developed a support resource aimed at supporting rural and remote communities in developing a whole of community collaborative approach to the provision of learning into the future. It can be downloaded by clicking on: Supporting the Development of Effective Clusters or Partnerships a
Over the past two years, the Country Education Partnership has been working directly with a small number of rural and remote communities in developing a cluster approach to learning provision.
Such communities include:
Nathalia Learning Community:
Far East Gippsland Learning Alliance:
St Arnaud Learning Alliance:
The Country Education Partnership has developed partnerships with a number of key education leaders to support these clusters in developing effective collaborative approaches to the provision of learning within rural and remote communities.
Throughout 2017, Maggie Farrar facilitated workshops and support for the various rural and remote clusters and an outline of the program she supported throughout 2017 is:
As a result of this work, CEP has extended its support of rural and remote communities in forming clustering as a key strategy in enhancing learning opportunities for children and young people within their communities. Some of these communities include: Maggie Farrar Cluster Program Outline II 2017
Steve Munby, Sir John Jones and Marie Claire Bretherton have also been involved in supporting professional learning activities for a number of rural and remote clusters.
- Upper Murray
- Ovens Valley
- Sale rural school communities,
- Mallee Education Cluster,
- GRaSS Small Rural Schools Cluster
- Kerang cluster,
- Yea and Mansfield cluster,
- Swan Hill cluster
- Pyrenees Cluster
CEP believes that the support of clusters and partnerships based on rural and remote communities working collaboratively together is the strategy that will support children and young people within these communities gaining the learning they need and desire. It believes in the approach of:
“a place based, locally determined whole of community partnership (Clusters, Learning Alliances, etc.) that builds on, and strengthens, current and past cluster and co-operative arrangements.”