Regional education on the agenda

An education forum addressing issues students in Gippsland face was held in Traralgon on Friday as part of the National Party’s Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education.

The review will take place across the country in the coming months and forms part of the $152 million Regional Education Package announced during the federal election.

Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie said kids in rural areas were less likely to finish year 12 and aspire to go onto further study compared to their city counterparts.

“We need to increase achievement, we need to increase aspiration and we also need to increase access for country kids,” Ms McKenzie said.

“That means if you’re lucky enough to study in a community like the Latrobe Valley and you have a local university campus, it may not offer the course you want to do.

“So you need to have choices to be able to have the technology to study online at home or be supported financially to go to a university of your choice and access the course you want to do.”

Chaired by Flinders University Emeritus Professor John Halsey, the forums will hear from educators across the country in rural, regional and remote communities.

Kurnai College Morwell campus principal Anthony Rodaughan welcomed the discussion and said it was important to address obstacles students faced in regional areas like the Latrobe Valley.

“For a start, in the country there’s not as much access to preschool which is important to a successful primary and secondary school,” Mr Rodaughan said.

“There’s not as many opportunities for students to get extension support and those sorts of things are really important as kids go through school.

“Similarly, once you shift to Melbourne away from family and networks it’s so much more expensive and you need so much more capacity to get there.”

Mr Rodaughan said another area of concern was professional development for teachers and flagged alternative ways to attract teachers to rural communities as a priority for the government to consider.

“Clearly the better teachers and the higher-performing teachers you have, the better outcomes you’ll have with the students,” he said.