Research shows that students in rural and remote (non‑metropolitan) areas of NSW tend to underperform on major educational indicators when compared to students in metropolitan locations. To address this disparity, the NSW Minister for Education released Rural and Remote Education: A Blueprint for Action in November 2013. The blueprint committed $80 million over four years to implement a broad set of actions in four focus areas: quality early childhood education, great teachers and school leaders, curriculum access for all, and effective partnerships and connections.
This final evaluation report examines the implementation and impact of actions contained in the blueprint, using available data up to and including 2017. It also examines important education performance indicators to assess any changes in the magnitude of the gaps between rural and remote students and metropolitan students since the launch of the blueprint.
This evaluation has found that:
• Gaps in NAPLAN scores and school attendance between rural and remote students and metropolitan students have not reduced since the introduction of the blueprint. The gaps between remote students and metropolitan students have narrowed on Best Start and retention to Year 12. The gaps between provincial students and metropolitan students have not reduced on these measures.
• The 50% rental subsidy introduced at some fourpoint schools had no meaningful impact on teacher retention.
• Aurora College provides an important opportunity for gifted and talented students. Enrolments have grown and issues related to timetabling are being addressed.
• Education Networks and Networked Specialist Centres (NSCs) have had little impact. At the time of the evaluation, Education Networks had not been used in the more substantial ways originally envisaged, for example to increase community engagement or share budgets. Some NSC facilitators were unsure of their overall effectiveness or were confused about the scope of the role. Since the evaluation, the role of NSCs has been clarified and the department believes they will demonstrate value into the future.
• Enrolments of 4 and 5 year old Aboriginal children in community preschools in rural and remote areas increased by 45% between 2013 and 2017. Enrolments of non-Aboriginal 4 and 5 year old children from low income families increased by 8%.
The interim monitoring and evaluation report was published in 2016.
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