Rural Learning Summit 2019
The Country Education Partnership recently facilitated a Summit involving 70 key personnel from rural and remote education settings, universities, education sectors and key stakeholder groups across all education sectors.
The Rural Learning Summit focused on the growing challenge of recruiting and retaining educators and education leaders to rural communities.
The day provided the opportunity to examine, discuss and seek to address some of the long standing issues that surround preparation, recruitment and retention of educators and education leaders in rural settings.
The sharing of creative and thought provoking ideas, looking for positive outcomes, being prepared to consider the need for a new mindset and some solution focussed outcomes were evident as participants engaged with the issues in discussion groups.
The issues have been explored and known for some time but the willingness to look at them through a new lens made the Learning Summit worthwhile.
Four presentations commenced the forum and the diversity in these presentations provided a broad basis upon which to commence the conversation.
- Exposure to the North West Rise Network and its collaborative approach with teachers spread far and wide across the North West of America in small rural and remote schools, highlighted the international nature of the issues and the real potential collegial responses to rural educators support, growth and development can support recruitment and retention.
- Rebecca Mc Kenzie, a recent graduate, succinctly outlined her early teaching experiences in a Victorian rural setting and identified the importance of support, collaboration and trust, alongside the opportunities for early career growth and responsibility.
- Sameerah Arif, from Rural Workforce Agency Victoria, (RWAV) provided a rural health perspective to the preparation, recruitment and retention of health professional. The brokerage and facilitation role and responsibilities of the agency opened the door for some possible opportunities in the education sector and was very relevant to forum discussions.
- Dr Philip Roberts from Canberra University, a long time researcher into rural and remote educational issues, focussed on the specific and different nature of rurality. Comparison with metrocentric data, outcomes and contexts did not recognise nor celebrate the difference in being rural nor its achievements. He focussed on research in this field and raised awareness for participants to engage with and consider what has been discovered and known.
Kevin Philips, engaged as the facilitator for the Rural Learning Summit said:
“Each of the presenters, in their own, very individual way, provided an opportunity for all Summit participants to consider new and different responses to our past and current actions and experiences, and provided a great foundation for the solution focused approach taken by the participants at the Learning Summit.”
Via a number of focussed group conversations, the Learning Summit explored what ideas and actions could be supported to change current practices. Through these conversations five key strategies emerged. These were:
- A Holistic Policy Approach: there is an understanding that the issues have been with us for some time. Actions at all levels have been taken but the problems remain much the same. The forum highlighted and reinforced the desire to have a holistic approach, with all education sectors playing their part and trusting each other to achieve the outcomes we desire;
- Partnerships maybe the lynch pin to success in this area. Working individually, doing the same thing is the classic case of getting the same result. Placed based partnerships exist to service the needs of their local communities.
- Collaboration as a partnership strategy it has the potential to achieve more together than alone. It requires a changed mindset but if achieved it uses the inherent potential of many rural education settings for the benefit of the many. Just as importantly it uses the resources of the many effectively and efficiently to achieve better student outcomes.
- Empowerment at all levels will begin a holistic attack on the issues outlined. At Government level they have actions they must take and some of these are to empower rural education settings to have the resources to once again become the local solver of local problems. This support is aimed clearly at reinvigorating this sector. Education settings will work closely with Universities to improve and support the preparation of pre-service teachers. At the partnership level education settings will collaboratively develop new programs and practices that empower and support new and existing staff to maintain or become the quality educators they want and need.
- Support at all levels is essential. The Government must be prepared to provide the resources necessary to encourage and re-invigorate the rural and remote education sector. Education settings need to be more clinical in how they provide support for their staff at all levels of development and experience. Education settings must support each other and be prepared to share without reservation, if our goal is truly, better outcomes for all students.
From the Rural Learning Summit, CEP will be advocating and pursuing a change in the approach to preparation, recruitment and retention of educators in rural and remote education settings. CEP will advise Government, and education sectors to consider:
- The development of a holistic policy in this area for rural and remote education settings that includes actions on supply and demand, incentives and promotion of rural education;
- A cross-sector Rural and Remote Framework for the Preparation, Recruitment and Retention of educators that would outline programs and actions to be implemented within the policy;
- Support for a “Rural Educators Agency” that will provide leadership in the implementation of education settings partnering and address the preparation, recruitment and retention of staff. It would support the effective use of resources to deliver outcomes and be a facilitator and co-ordinator of action. It would provide support to reduce workload on individual education settings, seek creative responses and provide co-ordinated access to high level professional thinking and ideas. It would be based on the RAWV agency model shared at the Learning Summit;
- A Rural Resource Fund support for rural and remote education settings to form partnerships to address their issues that MUST include a preparation, recruitment and retention strategies for educators in their communities. This would be the cornerstone for empowering rural education partnerships to create local solutions to local problems;
- Targeted incentives that are delivered in a two-tiered manner. At level one the Government would make available incentives that include resources for accommodation, travel and relocation, to support the rural recruitment and retention of educators. At level two education settings would have access to support to meet their own local solutions that encourages recruitment and retention within their partnership of education settings;
- A specific focus will be given to encourage leadership development, recruitment and retention;
- Education Settings would become more aware and active in meeting the intrinsic and extrinsic needs of their educators, regardless of experience. Programs for induction and mentoring/coaching would be well planned, resourced and delivered across a partnership. Training of mentors and or coaches will be essential.
- The concept of teacher growth through supported professional development would be provided. Online networks, sabbaticals and increased use of experienced educator skills within the partnership would be at the forefront of action.
A full Position Paper will be developed by Country Education Partnership to be utilised in discussions with the State Government as well as the education sectors to advocate for the development of sustainable strategies to improve the preparation, recruitment and retention of educators and education leaders within rural communities.