There are few people who would question the commitment and passion of teachers in rural and regional Australia.
Their drive to contribute to the communities they work in and the students they teach is unparalleled and often undervalued as a whole.
Regional and rural schools have long had shortages of expert curriculum teachers and experienced teachers.
The further you move from metropolitan areas, the harder it is to get teaching staff, let alone specialised curriculum experts.
There has been a serious workload strain on staff, and in some schools the most experienced teacher graduated from university just three years before.
Schools have also been beset with infrastructure problems, being unable to connect with the internet, lack of technology support and poor resourcing.
While these issues have been acknowledged, it is only recently that a tangible action plan has been developed and enacted.
Rural and regional communities and school principals in those areas have felt a huge strain and lack of support for a number of years and look forward with anticipation to positive results that come from a new government initiative.
In February, the NSW Department of Education released the Rural and Remote Education Strategy (2021-24) to improve education in rural and remote communities.
This blueprint provides for increased internet and technology access and provision of more teachers.
The strategy has come about through extensive consultation to directly address the concerns of stakeholders including parents, First Nations Peoples, teachers, principals and universities.
The recent initiative by the NSW Department of Education is an acknowledgement of these strains and the overhaul of their rural and regional strategy is a welcome one.
The department is examining strategies and working closely with universities, including Charles Sturt, to address the needs to rural and regional schools.
The first goal of the strategy is to supply students in rural and remote communities with more high-quality educators who are aware of localised needs.
All Charles Sturt's regional students are placed in regional schools to bolster the connection and collaboration between communities and the university.
There has never been a better time for a productive and collaborative working relationship between the school sector and universities.
Charles Sturt is perfectly placed to address industry shortages and understands the needs of rural and regional NSW, especially in terms of teacher requirements and demands.
The School of Education and the School of Teacher Education collaborate closely with schools to ensure that placements for teacher education students are targeted to the curriculum area required by the various schools.
Our professional experience coordinators maintain close contact with the schools to ensure that our students are meeting the required standards, as well as giving schools an opportunity to evaluate potential teachers to be employed in subsequent years.
The idea that students can gain familiarity in a particular school setting and meet the needs of that community is proving effective to growing the number of qualified teachers in the region.
The fourth goal of the strategy is to encourage more productive partnerships with education providers, vocational education providers and industry to increase student achievement, ambition and success.
The partnerships will ideally be between schools, universities, training providers and TAFE to offer opportunities aligned with the aspirations of rural and remote students.
Charles Sturt is already working toward achieving this by establishing two professional experience hubs in Albury-Wodonga and Bathurst.
These hubs have networks to adopt a process of using the expertise of teachers to mentor our students as well as embed them in schools to provide a sense of belonging.
As a member of the Rural and Regional Education Advisory Group, the challenges facing rural schools in recruiting teachers, especially to specialty subjects such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), has become obvious.
Charles Sturt has initiatives in place to address these, including delivering courses that are flexible, progressive and relevant to what the regional teaching sector requires.
Charles Sturt is also one of the few universities in the country to offer a Bachelor of Education (K-12) and Bachelor of Education (Technology and Applied Studies) program.
This gives graduates a well-rounded degree and pathways for people with TAFE qualifications to transition to a school setting by recognising their previous experience.
Education economist Adam Rorris recently said at least 11,000 full-time teachers will be needed over the next decade to meet student enrolment growth, based on figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Enrolments in teaching and education degrees at Charles Sturt University have increased by 28 per cent from 2018 to 2020.
The increase shows a confidence in Charles Sturt to produce quality teaching and education graduates.
We are proud of the impact that regional universities such as Charles Sturt are having on developing the quality and supply of regional teachers, helping secure the education of regional students.
Associate Professor David Smith is head of Charles Sturt University's School of Education in Albury-Wodonga.