Program extends student teachers’ stay in rural schools

Loxton High SchoolFlinders University is leading a radical new education program that will see nine student teachers undertake a six-month placement in schools in South Australia’s Riverland and South East.

The Extended Rural Practicum Program (ERPP) is designed to give students an extended firsthand experience of the opportunities and challenges of teaching in a rural population centre.

Students will continue their university studies at Flinders Riverland campus while on placement and also complete their teaching experience requirements to become registered teachers.

Sidney Myer Chair of Rural Education and Communities, Professor John Halsey said the ERPP was inspired by Flinders’ highly successful Parallel Rural Community Curriculum (PRCC) for medical students.

“An enduring issue for education in rural Australia is attracting and retaining teachers,” Professor Halsey said.

“The PRCC has had an impressive track record in attracting graduate doctors to practice medicine in rural communities. We feel this is a unique opportunity to do a similar thing for rural education,” he said.

“Instead of a placement of a few weeks, the student teachers will spend an entire semester learning, working and living in a rural centre as part of their preparation for careers as teachers.”

Eight students will be placed in the Riverland: one each at Loxton High (pictured), Swan Reach Area, Barmera Primary, Berri Primary, Glossop Middle School, Renmark North Primary, Monash Primary and Waikerie High. One student will be placed at Moorak Primary in the South East.

The ERPP has the support of principals in the Riverland who, over several years, have been working to have student teachers stay in their schools and communities for an extended period.

“Given what is occurring in many rural areas through the impacts of drought, climate change, globalisation and demographic shifts, the challenges of attracting and retaining professionals to rural areas will persist and are likely to intensify,” Professor Halsey said.

“The ERPP is a fresh and bold solution that provides insights and opportunities that can only be gained by being immersed in ‘place’.

“There are also substantial benefits for employers of teachers in recruiting from a pool of graduates who have firsthand experience of rural contexts.”

Flinders will be conducting research about the ERPP, to assess its benefits and impact.

The ERPP is receiving financial support from the Yulgilbar Foundation, the Department of Education and Children’s Services and Credit Union SA.

The students commenced their placements on January 27.

Posted in
News Students Teaching and learning