This project seeks to discover the nature of successful strategies for preparing, attracting and retaining high quality teachers for rural and remote schools in five Australian states. It is conceived as a national partnership between teacher education researchers with a history of institutional commitment to rural education, and whose pre-service programmes produce graduates for positions in rural schools. It will use a longitudinal series of annual national surveys of two cohorts of student teachers taking up university and state incentive schemes for rural teaching, with follow-up focus group interviews each year. These participants will be re-surveyed and followed up at interview again as beginning teachers over their first two years of teaching.
In addition, case studies of rural schools identified by communities and systems as successful in retaining good teaching staff will be developed in order to identify the nature of successful teacher education and recruitment strategies that make making rural teaching an attractive and long-term career option at both primary and secondary levels.
This research comes at a time where nationally, we face a crisis in attracting and retaining teachers and other professionals to rural areas. There is a national projection of a teacher shortfall which will affect all schools, with significant numbers of the current ageing teacher workforce expected to retire in the next five years.
This shortfall will be most felt in rural schools and communities, as traditionally these are the schools identified as harder to staff. Australia’s future depends upon each citizen having the necessary knowledge,
understanding, skills and values for a productive and rewarding life in an educated, just and open society (MCEETYA Adelaide Declaration, 1999). High quality schooling is central to achieving this vision.
Students in rural, regional and remote Australia have the right to an equitable and quality education, and it is an imperative for all education stakeholders to ensure that they have access to it. Share, Lawrence and Boylan (1994) argued that the Australian rural economy and rural education policies are inextricably linked, in that rural restructuring – notably significant demographic change – exert pressure on the availability and quality of education and training. Educational researcher McSwan (2003) has analysed data on rural economic change, arguing that in terms of rural schooling, a depth of resource in human, social, cultural and economic capital is crucial to sustainable community development (p.22).
Dissemination of Final Results
It is likely that results from this project will be keenly sought by the education research community, as well as state and national Education Departments. Interim findings will be offered for publication to key research journals.
Presentations will be made at Australian rural education, teacher education and education research conferences and within the Rural Education SIG at AERA, as well as at Regional meetings of Principals and support staff in each state. The complete findings of this research will be used as the substantive basis for the production of two publications: one (in multimedia) for a general audience aimed at promoting teaching at rural schools for school students and student teachers; and the other a scholarly account bringing together the case studies of those schools and communities identified with higher teacher retention rates with the theoretical insights developed through our analysis.