Country Education Project Rural Forum

Beautiful Dunkeld

Beautiful Dunkeld

Venue:- The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld, Victoria, Australia

Participants:- From all tiers of the educational sectors including representatives from principal class, R and L’s, preschools, primary and secondary schools, prep-12 schools

After hearing about the new initiatives from the DEECD and other current potential initiatives that may impact rural education, we listened to a report on the CEP New Leaders Group recent trip to a number of schools in regional Canada. Their highlights were summarized as follows:-

 1.        Resources

  • Students need to have resources when required not when timetabled. Need to move to areas where students can do what they need to.
  • Can move when student directed and not teacher driven.
  • Leave school as independent, resourceful thinkers, with strategies to go about learning  throughout life. 
  • Curriculum was individualised and was also used for ‘at risk’ students. 
  • The teaching and learning has been replaced by learning and a teacher whose role is facilitating/coaching/assessing/planning. The teacher facilitates the activity and spends less time teaching large focused group.
  • Development of off campus classrooms in the centre of town, where teachers are on flexible timetables and students could come in when it suited them. Therefore students could work and support themselves but still complete schooling by going to an off campus centre. Take school to the community.

2. Leadership

Throughout the school districts a common language has been developed with common management strategies in place. Principals are moved to schools where their strengths are needed most.  (usually no more than 5 years at one school). Working together in teams, having common understanding and practice eases the workload and minimizes duplication. As learning was individualised, there was  much more 1:1 support. All staff, including the cleaners were regularly interviewed,  Leadership actively sought advise as to what they could do better and then it was acted on. Everyone working there was seen as important. All principals had to do masters of education.

3.      Cyberschool

Over 1500 students are enrolled at the Saskatoon Catholic Cyber School . Created subject curriculums online and these subjects are part of accredited courses. The Cyber School also house educational web activities filtered by grade and subjects. Teachers in the cyber school are employed on the basis that they maintain 2/3 face to face teaching and 1/3 or their time to developing and implementing their subject. Previous experience has shown the most significant indicator of quality in the creation of online course is selecting a master teacher and asking them to adapt, create and model quality educational activities in this new forum.

Technological skills and computer literacy are developed as part of this process. All science experiments in the real classroom, were videoed and uploaded onto the website, so online students could still see the experiments being conducted and could contact the teachers to seek further clarification.

In Saskatoon district, all students complete one or two subjects as an online subject. The cyberschool sets them up for independent learning and therefore lifelong learning

 Discussion then centred back on our Victorian rural areas (here follows some of my notes)

There is a need to explore the strengths and assets of the small rural country schools to re-engage with communities. Larger schools are researching small subschools or family groups to give a sense of connectedness with a community.  Rural areas could play a role in helping the larger schools. Small communities can make collaborative and new learning environments. Free from age and year level structures, communities can all learn together when their interests cross paths. Although the flexible learning path may seem radical, this approach has been essential to the way remote rural students have been educated over the  years.

Rural school experiences focussed on the ongoing development of their community. School staff take on community based roles eg  sports coaches Rural education needs to look 5 years down the track, stop the education train, and redesign the tracks and direction.

What is a rural community?

  • Size of community is less than 5000
  • At least 30 minutes travel to preschool, adult and VET education, Health and well being service, access to public transport facilities,
  • sense of an identified community, – catchment of the community,
  • has a vision, sense of belonging,
  • Is at least 1 hour’s travel time from Melbourne
  • At least 20 mins from the nearest largest centre of 10000 residents.
  • Cost of access to get community services

 Challenges

  • Relocation of public and community services over recent times.
  • Changing demographics of rural Victoria
  • Rural community populations are generally getting older, more young people leaving to access learning – especially post school learning
  • The social economic demographic is changing in a number of rural communities eg cheaper housing
  • Anonymity may also set in, in rural communities.

 Need to change the learning parameters and change to the big picture of global learning. What are the best practices that we want to incorporate into rural education? Here is our opportunity to state our destiny.

Historically small schools have used technology to deliver subject programs.

Young people – mobile, global, multi-task and want everything now.

Education is data driven, VCE focus, Literacy, numeracy. Every child to succeed globally.

What is good teaching and learning within  rural Victoria?

Develop life long learning , enquiry based learning, data driven, personalizing the learning. giving students a future skill set. Most students learn most between 6:30 and 9:30 at night.  School needs to go outside its current hours.

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