A south-west principal says free secondary teaching degrees are welcome news and will help boost educator numbers as schools experience "unprecedented" staff shortages.
Cobden Technical School principal Rohan Keert was "absolutely delighted" to hear about the state government's $229.8 million package to grow the school workforce, announced Tuesday, September 12.
Mr Keert has worked in education for almost 40 years and said schools were facing "unprecedented" issues around staff recruitment and retention.
The scholarship will be available to all Victorian students who enrol in secondary school teaching degrees in 2024 and 2025.
Upon graduation the recipient must work in the Victorian government school system for two years to be eligible.
The total scholarship for students is $18,000 for a four-year undergraduate program or $9000 for two years of postgraduate study.
It is expected to lead to 4000 graduates each year and is similar to a free university program announced in August 2022 for nursing and midwifery students.
Mr Keert, who is also on the Great South West Coast Network of Government Schools executive, said each of the region's 35 primary and secondary representatives were experiencing staffing challenges.
"We're brainstorming in schools local solutions so it's pleasing to hear a top-down solution has been funded and resourced by our government," Mr Keert said.
He said the statewide solution was welcome news.
"I've been in education nearly 40 years and it's unprecedented the issues we're having around recruiting and retaining staff," he said. "This is great news."
Mr Keert said schools faced various other challenges including a shortage of casual relief teachers, educators needing to take leave post COVID-19 "to prevent burnout or as a result of burnout" and changes to the enterprise agreement covering time in lieu for staff.
"There's a range of factors that reduce our access to staff," he said. "It's a challenge.
"It's a challenge to keep our eyes on the prize which is improving student outcomes and making school a great experience for all of our kids at all of our schools. It's never been more challenging to manage our staffing and our resourcing."
Mr Keert said the new scholarships wouldn't address staff shortages in the short-term but he hoped the medium to long-term solution would lead to more graduates, particularly in regional and rural schools.
"The data tells us there is an increasing number of teachers leaving the profession after a couple of years," he said. "We want to get them in and keep them in so we need to make sure the pre-teacher degrees really closely align with what life in schools is.
"This package guarantees at least a couple of years retention which is good... Being a strong advocate for country schools hopefully it will increase the opportunity for some metro pre-service teachers to be encouraged to work in the region."
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