I’m organising an early literacy program and earlier this week @edutweetoz had a discussion on what it is like to teacher in a rural community on Twitter. What has struck me today is how little city folk understand rural and remote issues. Disclamer: I do not live or work in a rural or remote area. I am an hours drive (non-peak hour) or a 90 minute train ride from Sydney. I’m not sure why. It could be they don’t understand the vastness or the lower concentration of people or a lack of empathy or what. I’m organising this training for schools as far North as Helensburgh, as far South as Eden and as far west as Young. Look it up on a map, I don’t have enough time to create a Google Map in my 28 minutes of writing.
This program has Lead Trainers, we are training some new ones, 2 are from regional NSW but unlike their city counterparts, the schools they service have to absorb the cost of flights and accommodation. Did you know it is cheaper to fly to Perth from Sydney than Merrimbula to Sydney? Like every other new Lead Trainer they are out of their school, they need to cover their absence, but there is no casual teacher to replace them.
Lead Trainers train Trainers. We have some new trainers who have to do 12 days of training with the Lead Trainer. My regional trainers travel no more than 30 minutes to their training venue. Their rural and remote counterparts travel up to 2 and a half hours. The trainers train teachers and visit them in their school to help improve their practice. My regional trainers can get their whole group done in a day. Their rural and remote counterparts need a day to visit one teacher in a single school.
The regional trainers have up to 18 teachers in their training group. The rural and remote teacher may only have 6 because that is all the Kindergarten teachers within a 2 and half hour radius. They have greater costs than their regional counterparts but divided amongst fewer schools. The process may be equal but it is not equitable.
They do get some rural and remote funding. There are extra grants and some amazing principals who share their resources with others. The teachers are amazing. They do this training, sometimes at a personal cost (time and money) to themselves. But its not equitable and some city folk don’t get it.
We are trying to redress the balance. Come up with new ways of doing things, finding funds and finding solutions. I’m proud of the work we are doing. We are closer to equity but when you devolve funds to schools there will be winners and losers. And if you are in a city or regional school, you should think of your country counterparts before you complain about how difficult it is to access PL.
I will continue to strive for equity because that is one of my core beliefs as a public educator.