Investing in Sustainable and Resilient Rural Social Space: Lessons for Teacher Education
Attracting and retaining effective education leaders and teaching staff for regional, rural and remote schools in Australia is a major sustainability and quality issue facing every State and Territory. It is also a major concern in pre-service teacher education, particularly for those universities which have a commitment to rural and regional areas. There is a strategic link between teacher education and the sustainability of rural communities with earlier suggestions (White & Reid, 2008, p. 1) highlighting that ―healthy rural communities may be supported via reform of the ways in which teacher education prepares graduates for teaching in rural schools. Likewise, the proposition is made in this paper that the relationship is importantly reciprocal and that, in turn, healthy rural communities and “successful rural schools” can inform and help reform teacher education and professional learning through the insights gathered into the ways in which rural education leaders and teaching staff work closely with their school communities. In this paper we draw specifically from the research findings of a three-year Australian Research Council funded project (2008-2010) of schools and communities where sustainable practices around staff recruitment and retention were identified to explore this reciprocal relationship. The paper will firstly discuss the context of the study, its method and conceptual framework, and then focus in particular on the emerging themes from the twenty case-studies across Australia. Themes discussed include the important linking between rural school leadership and community renewal; the possibilities of developing school-university partnerships to sustain the rural workforce; and the need for social and creative enterprise to be acknowledged as important work of rural teachers and leaders. The paper concludes with the implications of these themes in terms of better preparing a future rural teacher workforce.
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