Placements give teaching students a taste for the country

Country townTen final year pre-service teachers at Flinders who have grown up mainly in the city have been awarded up to $5,000 to undertake extended practicums in South Australian country schools.

The students, who are studying to be primary, special education, middle school and secondary teachers, will join schools in Ceduna, Port Lincoln, Whyalla, Burra, Jamestown, Roxby Downs, Glossop and Naracoorte under the Flinders School of Education initiative.

Attracting exceptional teachers to country schools and communities is an on-going challenge in Australia, said Professor John Halsey, who welcomed the funding provided by the Thyne Reid Foundation.

“This initiative will help to familiarise pre-service teachers with the unique challenges – and also the unique rewards – of living and teaching in the country,” said Professor Halsey, who leads the rural education and communities focus in the School of Education.

“Studies show clearly that students who have a country experience prior to graduation are much more likely to view a rural career option positively.”

There were 27 applications for the funding, which has been provided by the Thyne Reid Foundation for two years and includes an allocation for evaluation of the experiences.

“Thyne Reid has a very long and distinguished philanthropic track record, and their financial assistance stands to make a real difference to the quality of education and the quality of life in rural communities,” Professor Halsey said.

The funding is to assist recipients pay for the main costs associated with an extended rural practicum – travel, accommodation while on placement and maintenance of ‘home base/university’ accommodation, meals and day-to-day living expenses, and loss of income from employment.

The Flinders initiative builds on a successful pilot extended rural practicum conducted in the Riverland in 2011.

As well as encouraging the students to take up country teaching positions when they graduate, the practicums will have numerous “knock-on” effects, Professor Halsey said.

He said that other beneficiaries of the program will include country schools and their teachers, through the influx of new ideas, skills and knowledge; individual students and children; country communities; and education systems and departments.

“It will also benefit for teacher education staff at Flinders through expanding knowledge of how to optimally prepare teachers for a rural based career,” Professor Halsey said.

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