Rural and Remote
Education Inquiry Briefing Paper
4. Composition of rural and
An ideal staffing
situation in a school should include a mix of both new and experienced
teachers. In rural and remote schools, however, young and inexperienced
teachers make up the majority of the staff (Tomlinson 1994, page 70).
A combination of experienced and new staff provides an opportunity for
mentor relationships to develop. The transfer of experience and knowledge
from established staff to new staff can assist in the acculturation process.
New staff bring with them information about the current pedagogical theory
and innovative teaching strategies. This makes for a good mix of experience,
knowledge and innovation.
In WA the majority
of staff in positions outside of the metropolitan areas have less than
five years teaching experience (Tomlinson 1994, page 70). Across Australia
women make up the majority of teaching staff. In fact, women constitute
70% of the teaching profession and only 30% of the management positions
(Lisa Heap, Australian Education Union, Darwin public hearing, 10 May
1999). In rural and remote schools this gender demographic changes slightly.
There are increased numbers of male teachers in rural and remote schools
though women still constitute the majority (Tomlinson 1994).
If we were to build
a picture of the rural and remote teacher it would be that of a young
female with limited teaching experience. This raises some questions about
access to professional development, support and professional enhancement.
Distance and isolation are barriers to these resources and so many staff
in rural and remote placements work in professional isolation. Unless
the school has excellent leadership, this can be quite a hardship for
the beginning teacher.
Northern Territory, as Australia-wide, there are few women in leadership
positions, albeit with a recent couple of noted exceptions in the Northern
Territory. This is not unique to the Northern Territory. Australia-wide,
women make up 70% of the education workforce and make up less than 30%
of those in leadership positions.
I'd like you
to ask to look, when you're going through your inquiry to some of the
remote locations in this system, at the number of young women who are
in teaching jobs in these communities (Lisa Heap, Australian Education
Union, Darwin public hearing, 10 May 1999).
of induction and mentorship programs for beginning professionals has received
attention in both urban and rural areas. Mentorship has long been recognised
as even more vital to beginning rural practitioners to overcome the tremendous
feeling of professional isolation that they experience in their first
year. The literature lends overwhelming support for induction and mentorship
programs for the beginning teacher (Hirsh). Not only does the induction
program benefit the beginning teacher but it also contributes to the professional
development of the more experienced teacher who acts as a mentor (Killion
1990) (Boylan & Bandy 1994, page 156).
updated 2 December 2001.