Trying to attract high-quality teachers to work and stay on in regional and rural areas is an ongoing concern for governments around the country, with scholarships and other incentives regularly on the table.
The problem has been a long-standing one, with state and commonwealth governments from both sides finding it difficult to develop a sustainable plan.
But are incentive schemes the best way of attracting and retaining high-quality teachers?
We know that students who study and do their work placements in regional areas are more likely to stay on after graduation. But, for these students, completing the course can be harder.
Regional students have greater travel obligations, juggle diverse school settings to strengthen their subject coverage, and often work within a moving workforce that is not grounded in its community.
The schools themselves are also facing their own challenges – complex demographics, high achievement benchmarks, education access trends and diverse cultural communities.
This is where support from government, the wider community and, ideally, a local university makes all the difference.
Take, for example, where I work, at La Trobe University. We offer education courses, including Bachelors and Masters of Education, at our regional campuses in Victoria.
We work with the local communities, and local schools, to train teachers to meet all the complex needs of that school. The curriculum is tailored to suit, and students are well supported in their placements.
Not only does this make it easier for regional students to study teaching – or for people in other careers to pathway into teaching – it also produces graduates who know all the complex needs of the regions.
This may have flow-on effects for towns. Quality teachers and stronger schools bring better-skilled people into regional areas, working in all sorts of diverse industries, and contributing to the town’s economic and cultural success.
So, rather than relocating teachers from the city to the country, or incentivising education students, let’s support universities to train more regional students at their regional campuses.
Incentive schemes are helpful for attracting teachers to regional and rural schools, but teacher workforce planning is a long game that needs community support.
Professor Joanna Barbousas is Head of Department of La Trobe University’s School of Education