$82.8 million funding package will support recommendations from the newly devised panel; more than half of this will be put towards tackling teacher supply.
AEU Victoria has said funding to address educational impediments faced by public school students in rural and regional areas is a much needed first step forward.
The Victorian government’s Expert Advisory Panel for Rural and Regional Students Executive Summary provides a roadmap for addressing the growing opportunity gap that rural students face.
“The growing gap in educational outcomes between metro and rural schools is alarming and today’s announcement is a crucial first step,” said Meredith Peace, president of the AEU Victorian branch.
“Every Victorian child has the right to a quality education and equal access to educational opportunity. Public schools in rural and regional areas do a very good job in difficult circumstances of meeting all students’ needs, but the reality is that rural schools and families face a whole raft of challenges that metro schools don’t.
“We welcome the Expert Panel recommendations and would like to see them all implemented as swiftly as possible by the Victorian Government. We don’t want any student to miss out on opportunities they deserve.
“We recently surveyed 3,500 members about the impact of mental health issues on learning, and 80 percent of teachers in rural areas say student wellbeing and mental health issues are affecting student learning.
“Many schools in rural and regional areas are tackling issues of competition, compounding disadvantage and factors beyond their control, that are harder to address than for their metro counterparts. Issues such as recruitment of staff, access to information technology, access to specialist support for learning difficulties, access to professional development, access to curriculum choice and pathways, welfare support, allied health services, and updating buildings and infrastructure are all harder for regional schools.
“Attracting teachers to rural areas is the first step; to retain them we must also make sure they have access to training and development and proper support, both professionally and within their local community. Our regional and rural communities are diverse, so any strategies need to be tailored to the local area.
“No student deserves to be disadvantaged because of where they live. We hope that the recommendations from this Panel are the first of many steps taken to help bridge the divide between our metro and non-metro students and schools.
“If we are to truly be the Education State, we need to support students and teaching staff in all parts of Victoria,” said Ms Peace.