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Rural and Remote Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

Rural and Remote

Education Inquiry Briefing Paper

5. Retention of staff


The stability of

a school is dependent to some extent on the stability of the staffing

arrangements. A constant turnover of staff can cause difficulties for

school curriculum programs and affect the learning outcomes for the children.

Curriculum is sometimes

repeated by staff who have no idea of what has been taught before. New

staff must adjust to new children and build trust, just as students have

to adjust to new staff members. Teaching styles and teaching strategies

must be relatively consistent. The development of literacy requires the

learning of literacy tools. When teachers change, so may the literacy

approach. One teacher may favour the phonic approach to literacy while

another may use the whole word approach. This can cause some confusion

for children as they learn the literacy tools. Continuity of staff is

therefore an important goal for rural and remote schools.

The challenge for

education bodies across Australia is to increase the retention rates of

staff in rural and remote schools. These teachers do not feel inclined

to stay past a minimum period when the conditions under which they operate

are isolating and under resourced.

Research indicates


One frequently

cited concern that rural communities must acknowledge and address in their

recruitment and retention practices is isolation. Research conducted on

rural professionals who leave their communities after a short time clearly

establishes isolation as the main reason.

In some rural

communities, the professional will encounter other cultures and world

views to the one(s) they know. These differences can be exciting, challenging

and inviting to participate in the new rural culture, as well as being

sources of anxiety, isolation and alienation. In the more isolated and

remote rural locations where the rural professional interacts with the

dominant Aboriginal culture, the process of adjustment and socialisation

may be more difficult. Research by Crowther (1988) on teachers in Aboriginal

communities in rural Queensland and the Northern Territory suggested

that the differences in cultural perspectives were one of the main contributory

factors in the high turnover rate of these professionals.

The degree

of integration into the local community in which the rural teacher and

professional work is likely to exert an influence - possible consideration-

upon their preparedness to stay .. Boylan (1991) found that long-staying

rural teachers believed on the whole, their work was valued by their

communities, their contributions to the community were valued and the

community valued having the teacher living locally (Boylan & Bandy

1994, page 154).


updated 2 December 2001.