In his own words, David Griffin has been Principal at Manangatang P-12 , in the Mallee, for “about 14 years”.
“Definitely more than 10 but maybe not quite 15 yet, I’d have to check,” he says.
But in that time, Mr Griffin says the core issues facing rural education have remained much the same.
And like most industries in remote communities, drawing new blood is the fundamental struggle.
“Certainly, attracting quality staff is one of the absolute challenges, and it’s been that way as long as I’ve been in country education,” he says.
“Schools around here can advertise a teaching position and it’s not uncommon to get one applicant, maybe two, or even none.
“Then the task of keeping teachers at the school is another battle in itself.”
Add to that the challenge of inferior aspiration; it can be a genuine battle making country students realise they can achieve as much from their schooling as their metropolitan counterparts.
“There is a lot of work being done around the aspirations of rural students but I think you can never do enough, it’s always going to be a challenge, where it isn’t in the city or, certainly, not to the same degree,” Mr Griffin says.
“It is a fact that rural students are less likely to partake in tertiary education for a whole gamut of reasons.
“For us, in many instances, the biggest hurdle is just getting students to consider university; to realise it is achievable.”
But it’s not all negative in rural education and focusing on the positive is achieving results in itself.
Manangatang P12 forms part of the Mallee Education Cluster, a collaboration with the Country Education Partnership (CEP) and the William Buckland Foundation, tackling education issues stemming from population decline in the Mallee.
Mr Griffin says the cluster concept “undoubtedly works” and CEP’s involvement formalising clusters across the state is “a genuine success”.
“Without CEP we (the schools) still would have been working together but not at the same high level, not achieving the same results,” he says.
“I’d like to think that all rural and remote schools support what CEP is doing because the benefit is entirely theirs, or ours.”
Principal at Manangatang P12 for (14?) years. “More than 10 years”.
Teaching since 1980. First 4 years in city- rest in country.