Incentivising the Profession: A national mapping of incentives to attract and retain staff in Australian non-metropolitan communities

Philip Roberts, Natalie DOWNES

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The staffing of rural, remote, and isolated schools has been a significant concern in Australia since the inception of compulsory schooling. To overcome this perennial challenge, education jurisdictions across the country turn to incentives as the main approach to encourage teachers to take up a position in a non-metropolitan school. Overall, the use of financial incentives far outweighs any other type of incentives.
There are limited examples of incentives focussed on the professional conditions in which teachers work. Instead the dominance of financial incentives positions financial inducements, compensation and relocation as the main driver of behaviour. Motivation to work in non-metropolitan communities is situated in narrow human capital terms, informed by external motivators. There is limited focus on internal human capitals related professional motivations. Furthermore, there are no compulsory units in pre-service teacher education to support the preparation for teaching in these communities.
Incentivising the profession solely through external motivations ignores the very nature of professional practice: the desire to be able to perform the role one trained and prepared for. The existing approach fails to acknowledge the distinct nature of non-metropolitan practice, and the preparation needed for these locations. Instead, financial incentives that dominate current policy run the risk of exacerbating the staffing problem. While they attract teachers, without preparation for the specificities of non-metropolitan practice, and recognition of this practice, teachers remain highly vulnerable to leaving after their mandated duration of service is complete.
To achieve long-term change in hard to staff non-metropolitan schools we need to re-balance the scales and ensure a better balance between compensatory incentives and those that reward professional practice.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCanberra
PublisherCentre for Sustainable Communities
Number of pages44
ISBN (Electronic)9781740885096
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sept 2020


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