Melbourne teaching students are being given a taste of life in regional, rural and remote schools through a new 'Ballarat Hub' placement program.
Australian Catholic University masters of secondary teaching students can receive a scholarship to spend four weeks living and completing a teaching placement in the Ballarat region.
Placement opportunities for hundreds of teaching students evaporated during COVID lockdowns with schools closed to all but essential staff.
The hub and scholarship program are the brainchild of ACU Ballarat Deputy Head of School Education Dr Gretchen Geng who worked to devise a post-COVID strategy to ensure student placement needs could be met.
"Practical experience in schools is critical to ensure the 'classroom readiness' of ACU's future teachers," Dr Geng said. "But when COVID-19 hit the world and Melbourne went into lockdown our city-based teaching students were unable find schools for their practical experiences."
My mentor teacher in my placement school was so supportive, and she was very open to me trying new things, and really getting in there and giving things a go. I really like the opportunity to be creative with my lessonsMarcus Ryan
"Regional, remote and rural schools need top teachers too, however a lot of student teachers want to stay urban.
"This was contrasted with the fact that Victoria's regions, including Ballarat, were not affected by lockdowns like the city."
The four-week scholarship program includes a weekly allowance for groceries and transport, and provides accommodation.
"The financial and accommodation support made Ballarat very attractive for Melbourne students seeking an enriched teaching experience in a regional/rural/remote setting," Dr Geng said.
The first group of students finished their four-week placement last week, with a week of that ending up as remote teaching because of the latest lockdown.
ACU in Ballarat only offers primary teaching, but Dr Geng is keen to build strong partnerships with the masters of secondary teaching sector and secondary schools in the Ballarat region.
Following their four weeks in Ballarat, the city-based students said they would definitely consider working in a regional, rural or remote school.
"They felt they were part of a small community and had a central involvement in the community," Dr Geng said.
"They felt they were involved in each individual student's teaching and learning process."
The schools, some of whom had not had student teachers before, were also happy with the standard of the training teachers and some had asked to host future students.
"It's been an eye opening experience for both sides," she said.
Five schools including a mix of low socio-economic rural schools, regional, semi rural and private schools, hosted student teachers.
The teachers themselves came from a range of backgrounds, specialising in english, history, science, music, business, psychology, media, arts, health and physical education.
ACU Secondary (Media and Music) student teacher Marcus Ryan enjoyed his time as part of the pilot group at the Ballarat Hub.
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"My mentor teacher in my placement school was so supportive, and she was very open to me trying new things, and really getting in there and giving things a go. I really like the opportunity to be creative with my lessons," he said.
"I guess one of the benefits being here in Ballarat was that we were able to do face to face learning and it makes me consider working in a regional school."
As part of the program, the group came to Ballarat a day early to learn about the city and had to incorporate local elements in to their lessons.
"We ask them to come one day early because we want them to understand what Ballarat is, to know the history and cultural background of Ballarat then we asked them to embed what they learned in to their teaching and lesson plans."
Another group of students will come to Ballarat later in the year and Dr Geng said they were hoping to go in to even more rural schools.
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