Teachers will be offered up to $50,000 to relocate from Melbourne to rural and regional schools desperate for qualified teachers, as part of a new Victorian Government plan.
- One regional principal said some job vacancies had no applicants at all
- Eligible teachers would be paid a further $9,000 per year for three years to stay
- The education union said more support was needed for teachers already in the region
The cash to lure teachers to the bush is part of a $45.2 million package to bridge a growing divide between student results in the city and regional areas.
Teachers who stayed in the most in-need schools would be eligible for a further $9,000 a year, for three years.
“This is about attracting the best and incentivising them to stay,” Education Minister James Merlino said.
The state has been facing a shortage of teachers, with the population of school-aged students booming at a rate that is not matched by educators joining the workforce.
A recent Grattan Institute report found Australia’s young high achievers were turning their backs on teaching, suggesting they were instead drawn to professions with better pay and more challenge.
Sue Bell, the President of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, said she hoped the funding would be a catalyst to change that trend.
“We have a decreasing number of people going into teacher training and at the other end, we have more people reaching retirement age … and so what we have is a looming shortage for secondary education for teachers,” she said.
Brendan Staple said Sale College had struggled to attract and retain teachers. (ABC News: Sarah Maunder)
The principal of Sale College in Gippsland, Brendan Staple, said he had struggled to attract applicants for teaching roles.
“We’ve put up jobs in the past for teacher specialists, one of the highest levels of teacher qualification that we’ve got, and had literally one or no applicants,” he told ABC Radio Melbourne.
“So [the Government] are listening to us on different ideas that might attract people.
“I guess we wait and see to see whether it does work.”
Funding ‘only part of the solution’, union cautions
The funds would form part of a package to support recommendations from the state’s Expert Advisory Panel for Rural and Regional Students, which was set up in June to tackle flagging results in regional schools.
Analysis of NAPLAN results shows the performance of regional and rural schools across the country is around 20 points or more behind metropolitan schools.
The package would put $12.5 million towards offering teachers incentives of up to $50,000 to relocate to country areas.
Another $12.8 million would go towards training professionals from a range of industries as teachers for vocational programs.
Also in the package is $7 million to attract principals to “challenging, complex and specialised” leadership roles and $12.9 million in funding for “expert Turnaround Teams” to boost results for underperforming schools.
The news was welcomed by acting president of the Australian Education Union (AEU), Meredith Peace, who said it could “open people’s eyes” to the benefits of working in a smaller community.
But she cautioned it was only “part of the solution” and said teachers already working in the area — who would not receive the relocation money — needed attention as well.
AEU Victoria research found there were high levels of mental health problems and socio-economic disadvantage in regional and rural areas.
“[Regional teachers are] dealing with some really big issues and they need additional support,” she said.