TEACHERS will be offered up to $50,000 to relocate to regional and rural areas under a State Government plan aimed at improving outcomes for country students.
In all $12.5 million of a $45.2 million total investment will be offered to both primary and secondary teachers to move to country centres that are traditionally hard-to-staff, usually small, rural communities, but sometimes also in specialist roles such as science and mathematics in larger towns.
It also includes assistance with housing, plus a retention payment of up to $9000 a year for three years if the teacher remains in their role.
A further $12.8 million will be offered to secure teachers who specialise in VET and VCAL to give access to more apprenticeships and traineeships while a further $3.7 million will help abolish enrolment fees for Virtual School Victoria, saving around 4400 parents $160 fees for the cost of their children accessing virtual learning.
It's been an ongoing conversation with the rural schools that keep highlighting to us that it is more and more difficult to get high quality teachers into their schoolsCountry Education Partnership executive officer Phil Brown
The move has been applauded by the Victorian branch of the Australian Education Union and the Country Education Partnership (CEP).
CEP executive officer Phil Brown said it was a step in the right direction for rural communities.
"The area around attracting quality teachers and leaders is of growing concern with principals and educational facilitators. This announcement will be a real bonus in those communities," Mr Brown said.
"From our perspective it's been an ongoing conversation with the rural schools that keep highlighting to us that it is more and more difficult to get high quality teachers into their schools and to get high performing leaders as well.
"This is about getting good quality teachers into schools. We have some awesome teachers in rural communities, this is going to add the cream to the cake."
Mr Brown was a member of the Expert Advisory Panel which has recommended support for rural school to the State Government. He said he was thrilled the government had listened to the panel in drawing up the investment.
Australian Education Union Victorian branch president Meredith Peace said it was a positive start to dealing with a complex issue.
"Not surprisingly our regional communities are very diverse. What works as a solution in one area may not be relevant in another," Ms Peace said. "An example of this is non-financial support with finding housing, in some areas there are housing shortages perhaps not so in other areas.
"The most important thing to come out of this process is that the Department of Education needs to keep working with local communities."
Ms Peace said it was important to promote the idea of moving to the country.
"Anything we can do to make people feel welcome and a genuine part of community and give them positive experiences that there is life outside the city is welcomed," she said.
"It's a positive start. Staffing is one of the biggest issues schools raise with us."
We have heard first hand that the divide between schools in the regions and the city is one of the biggest issues facing our schoolsEducation Minister James Merlino
The investment comes barely a week after the Grattan Institute released it's own plans for a $1.6 billion blueprint to boost teacher quality and student performance.
It said Australia's top teachers should be able to earn $80,000 a year more, and top school-leavers should get $10,000-a-year scholarships if they take up teaching. It also encouraged high achievers to become teachers by increasing the average ATAR of graduates to 85 within the next decade.
Grattan Institute School Education Program Director Peter Goss said with a higher-achieving workforce, the typical Australian student would gain an extra six to 12 months of learning by year 9.
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said his priority was making sure all students, no matter where they live, have the best possible start in life.
"We have heard first hand that the divide between schools in the regions and the city is one of the biggest issues facing our schools and that is why we are getting on with the job of fixing it."
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