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Rural and Remote Education - Tasmania


and Remote Education - Tasmania

Queenstown public meeting,

4 November 1999 - notes

School health and

support services

'On the West Coast

we don't have any welfare worker, any social worker, any speech pathologist,

any nursing sister. They just come when they can. We get a school sister

once every 6 months. It is just not good enough. I always thought that

kids needed medicals at the end of grade 6, but they've had none.'

'There is a new child

health person attached to the Community Centre here in Queenstown, but

she has only just started.'

'There are no routine

checks of the children in schools. Health services do not come to the

school unless it is absolutely urgent.'

'When health services

are wound back, you get used to carrying on without them. If the school

sister has a presence there is a good routine, but when her position is

taken away and someone comes to visit and they are just an itinerant worker,

it just falls away.

'There used to be

a team of health workers and most of them were based at my primary school,

but they have been eroded away. Now they exist, but they are scattered

around. The guidance officer and the social worker are based at Rosebery,

speech pathology is in Queenstown and our special research teacher is

at Zeehan. They service all of the schools on the West Coast and some

of the schools at Burnie. Given that you've got a minimum of 45 minutes

travel before you start work, the actual time with students is very limited.

'The strategy now

with speech pathology is not for the pathologist to work directly with

the students, but to set up programs so that other people can. That's

an effort to reach as many children as possible.'

'There's also kids

going without being assessed because the frontline professional is not

available to them.'

'Because the health

professionals are less available other people are taking on the health

checks. An example of this is that we [the classroom teachers] are making

the nits checks. Now, we are not supposed to do this, but we have a duty

of care so someone has to do it.'

Dental services

Parents in Tasmania

pay an annual fee of $35 dollars per child for dental services. In Queenstown,

however, when health practitioners such as the only dentist take holidays

or long service leave there are no services for school children.

'My daughter had

a tooth chipped and we had to wait for about 3 months. This is a state-wide

thing you know, but to charge you and then not give you access, well that

is just not on.'

Teacher turnover

'My school has had

a 100% turnover of the teaching staff twice in the last 4 years. And

that' reasonable. In 5 years the teaching staff have changed twice.'

'Prior to [current

principal] coming, we had a new principal every year. One year we had

2 principals in the one year.'

'The staff that we

attract here are almost always first year out. Then after 3 years they

change over. So we train a whole lot of staff to be literacy coordinators

or numeracy coordinators and then after 3 years they go and a new lot

come and we have to reinvent the wheel all over again and end up spending

lots of money on professional development.

'This is the problem

with being such a small high school. I attracted a music teacher here

4 years ago, but he is going this year. And the other thing is that being

such a small school I had to tell him that he would be teaching music

0.4 and English and sociology 0.6. So in order to give students the benefit

of specialist teachers, I have to ask teachers to teach out of their areas.'

'That is a concern

for me as a parent in having teachers teaching in areas that they are

not really qualified in. Other schools have teachers that are trained

in the subject areas that they teach in.'

Teacher training

'If you have a teacher

teaching in 3 areas, do they get professional development for those 3


'It tends to work

that teachers get professional development in their specialist areas and

then we form a buddy system at the school so that teacher can share their


Teacher accommodation,

utility subsides and the cost of living

'Three years ago

I could tell first year out teachers that they would live in a hostel

or a unit, and it would cost $20 and their power would be free. The Department

in 1998 put in meters and so the teachers now pay up to $300, $350 per

quarter is the usual cost.

'Basically we are

provided with accommodation but it is costing an arm and a leg to live

here. It is about $20 a month to live here but it is very basic housing

and we had the union official here only last week to complain about the

state of the housing.'

'The cost of food

is much higher here. The real cost though is travel. It is travelling

back and forward to see families and friends and going out to the cinema

or whatever.'

'Really if a job

is going in Hobart or Burnie you are going to take the job where there

are services rather than coming here.'

'This doesn't apply

at all to the TAFE college. We get cheap accommodation just like the school


'Strangely enough,

when I was living in Hobart it cost me the same amount of money as it

does to live here.'


'The monetary incentive

is about $20 and a few cents for single teachers per fortnight and $40

and a few cents for married teachers, or teachers with families.'

'There are transfers

after 3 years to a district of your choice but not the school. And our

system divides schools into 'hard to staff' and 'not hard to staff schools'.

If you work in a category A school you are eligible for a transfer after

3 years, whereas if you work in an urban school you are eligible for a

transfer after 5 years.'

'We have a high turnover

of young inexperienced staff in the Catholic system. There is no incentive

for more experienced teachers to come here to teach. There are also no

relief teachers. The state system has access to some relief teachers -

actually there is no primary relief teacher in town. For the Catholic

system there is no system.'

The social context

The other thing about

going out here is that if a teacher goes out and has a few drinks, everyone

would know about it tomorrow. It is not as bad as it used to be but it

is still pretty hard. Teachers are entitled to a life too. I used to tell

the teachers that if you go out and have night, the students tomorrow

would be able to tell you how many Baccardis you had.

'It used to be really

divided here when we had the Franklin incident. And it didn't matter whether

you were a greenie or not, if you were a teacher you were labelled a greenie.

Staff found it very hard to go out in large groups because of it.'

Experienced staff

'I sat on a selection

panel this year and I can say that the expertise of applicants has improved

and the number of applicants has increased. Four years ago I sat on a

panel and there was only one applicant for the job and it was for a senior


'It is relatively

easy to get young teachers here, but the challenge is to get experienced

teachers. How do you get experienced teachers here when they have mortgages,

lives and families in the cities?'

Executive staff

'Executives are given

a 5 year contract. It is a 5 year appointment but it is not binding, you

can leave if you get another job.'

'The principal who

was here before me did not come with his family. He came over here and

left the family back in the city. As a principal I have come here with

my family.'

'It is a big thing

to relocate the family when they are entrenched in a school and a life

somewhere else.'

'Then the local community

gets the view that the community is not good enough here.'

Transport and travel

Teachers spoke at

length about travel for themselves and for their students.

'With the travel,

too, it's 45 minutes travel, but that's distance travel, not like city

travel. And then there's the ice. I don't think a year has gone past without

one teacher having some sort of accident on the roads due to the ice.'

'One of the problems

that we have got in TAFE is transport. There is no travel assistance whatsoever

for the lads who come from Rosebery. They travel to the Zeehan turn-off

where they are back-loaded onto a school bus both ways which they have

to pay full costs for and I think it costs them about $50 per week. This

is probably not 100% legal but it is the only way.'

'At the school we

have students coming from Zeehan. There are more students than will fit

into one bus so we have got 2 buses but one of them is half empty so the

TAFE students can travel in that bus with the school students.'

'The school bus is

a privately run bus and that is why the students pay $50 each week. If

they lived on the North West Coast they could get a students' pass for

travel and it would cost them $3 per week. Here they can't get anything.'

'Last year a lot

of the parents sent the TAFE students away because it was cheaper to have

them board rather than pay the cost of transport to take them to the West

Coast TAFE.'

'My son goes to high

school from Strahan to Murray High School [in Queenstown]. He leaves at

7.15am on the bus every morning 5 days a week and he gets home at 3.50pm.

If they miss the bus there is no transport. The kids can't stay on after

school for any activities and it makes a very long day for them.'

Boarding school

'The cost of boarding

is also increased because as a parent you have to visit the child and

then when they get sick you have to pick them up. It all adds to the cost.

I think we were paying $125 each week for the boarding, but that in no

way reflects the real costs of boarding. Then you have pupil free days

and public holidays. What do you do then? So you bring them home. But

transport is a big problem. Sometimes you can't get them back to school

and they miss out on a week of school. Transport is such a big problem

here. The whole point of having the children live away from home is so

that they will get a good education. You don't want your child to miss

out on anything.'

'In Devonport they

have 4 to a room for the boarding accommodation. At the TAFE facility

in Burnie it is difficult to determine how many kids will be there at

any time because you have people coming and going all the time.'

'There is an issue

with student accommodation. It is a big cost to keep the accommodation


'I think the low

retention rates on the West Coast are due to the fact that the kids go

away to Hobart or elsewhere to finish their school studies or to go on

to further education. There are not too many kids roaming the streets

around here or doing nothing so I would dispute those statistics about

the poor retention rates on the South West Coast.

'We have individual

children who are away from school a lot at the primary school, but generally

the attendance rates are pretty standard.'

'If you work at the

mine and they are on a pretty good income. Now they might have 4 children.

Even though they might have a good income they don't get the Youth Allowance

and they have to put all the children through boarding school. Now they

might get that Assistance for Isolated Children subsidy but it still makes

the whole thing very expensive.'

Staffing formulae

and student numbers

'In an isolated area

like this we need a little bit of flexibility on class sizes. Our teachers

need to be able to teach across a number of subject areas to give the

students a balanced education. At my school I am entitled to 13 + 0.9

teachers. Now no-one is going to come down here for a point 9 position

so I have had to find the money from the school resource package to make

up the difference of the salary and it is not cheap. It has cost about

$5,000 in order to offer that person a full position.'

'We had a similar

situation. We have to find money out of our school budget to keep the

teacher student ratio down.'

'The idea of running

these smaller classes is to develop the talent in the community. We need

some champions in the community.'

'Our numbers have

dropped dramatically over the years, we don't run the pre-tertiary courses.

This is not about the quality of staff it is that we just don't have the

students to run the pre-tertiary. We have Year 11 but we don't have Year

12. Buses can take students to places where they can do pre-tertiary in

cities. They leave on Sunday afternoon to take students to the hostels

where they can stay for the school week.'

'I don't think it

is very good if we train kids too young at TAFE because we don't have

the facilities for it. We are better off taking the kids at Year 11. That

way they can start their certificate courses and then go on to further


'There are 82 children

at the school in Strahan. That means 4 classes. We have a music teacher

but we share him with Zeehan. He comes down about 3 days per week. One

of the things about Strahan [is] there are no male teachers. This means

that the boys really miss out. There is no-one to kick the football with

the boys.'

'In the high school

system we have been supplied with one extra teacher, over establishment

to fill in when teachers are away and to take classes. This has been an

absolute Godsend. The department has decided to continue with it for one

year at least.'

Indigenous students

'The Aboriginal students

here attend school and seem to be coping OK.'

'There is ASSPA [Aboriginal

Student Support and Parent Awareness] funding available but as you know

you need to have a committee and we had no interest in setting up the

committee so we had to send the funds back. We run some Indigenous education

programs at the high school but not many.'

'In my particular

area, the majority of my students are Aboriginal. There are 12 Aboriginal

children at the high school and 26 at the primary school. It seems amazing

that with these numbers we couldn't get an ASSPA committee together.'


'I noticed that the

teachers come here and they are not familiar with rural kids. You know

the kids are not wearing a school tie and they ride their bikes to school.

And I reckon that some of these teachers need to work on their communication

skills so that they understand the kids better. The young teachers are

trying to assert their authority and sometimes they get it wrong.'

Breakfast program

'I think the Lions

Club used to provide a breakfast program for the students. This only went

for a year because there was no funding for it. Sometimes the kids have

nothing to eat for hours and hours and they have had to get up and travel

a ghastly journey first thing in the morning.


updated 2 December 2001.