CEP: Time to be Heard
The Country Education Partnership (CEP) has urged rural school communities to “speak up and be heard”, in the wake of the Victorian Government’s formal recommendations to lift education outcomes in rural and regional schools.
Last month, the State Government announced a suite of targeted measures to ‘bridge the divide between metropolitan and country education’, with a funding pool of more than $82 million.
The initiatives include attracting teachers to hard-to-staff rural schools, greater accessibility to professional learning, and assistance for students to better access curriculum support.
CEP Chair Helen Clarke said the announcement created opportunity for rural principals, educators and broader communities to have their say on how best the government’s measures could serve their school communities.
“At CEP, we are delighted with the initiatives that have been announced because they show that the Minister and the department have been listening to our concerns and the concerns of our rural schools,” Ms Clarke said.
“But we also know that recommendations and initiatives, such as these, are only as good as their implementation, and that’s where our rural education communities need to speak up because they’re the ones on the ground doing the work and seeing the issues,” she said.
The Department will establish two Working Groups to oversee the development of a strategic plan for education in rural and regional communities.
CEP has been invited to participate in this process.
“This is a great opportunity for us to further support rural educators, students, parents and their communities,” Ms Clarke said.
“It is why we want to hear from our education communities — we want frank discussion — so we can make sure the correct information is being fed back to the department and Minister Merlino,” she said.
“Just last week we met with the Minister and there was no doubting his determination to generate real change and real results for country students.
“As I see it, this is a clear opportunity for rural and regional education communities to have their say because this government has placed a direct spotlight on rural and regional education reform.”
The Victorian Government has committed more than $82 million to improve rural and regional education outcomes through initiatives, such as:
- $5 million that will go towards offering the best teachers up to $50,000 to re-locate to country areas to fill hard-to-staff positions, as well as a range of non-financial support to assist with relocation, such as help with finding housing. Teachers will also be eligible for retention payments of up to $9,000 per annum in their first three years if they remain in these roles.
- $12.9 million to support school leaders with additional expert Turnaround Teams to work with individual schools facing the greatest barriers to addressing underperformance.
- $7 million to fund additional Executive Class Principals to take on the most challenging, complex and specialised school leadership roles.
- $12.8 million to increase the number of high-quality teachers specialising in VET and VCAL so that more students from country areas can access and complete apprenticeships, traineeships and further education.
- $13.2 million to enable rural and regional students to attend VCE revision lectures in Melbourne, saving students up to $1,000 on registration, travel and accommodation costs
- $7.8 million to expand professional development for teachers and leaders in rural and regional areas
- $5.1 million to support rural and regional schools to work in clusters to strengthen curriculum delivery
- $3.7 million for outreach and virtual programs – such as the John Monash Science School Rural Exchange Program – for regional and rural schools
- $3.7 million to abolish the enrolment fees for Virtual School Victoria for all Victorian students, saving around 4,400 parents $160 for the cost of their children accessing virtual learning
- $2.5 million to increase access to mentoring, role models and information about post-school pathways
- $1.4 million for Victoria’s Tech Schools to host and offer STEM programs for regional and rural students