In an attempt to attract the best teachers to rural NSW, 60 of the state’s most accomplished young scholars will receive a free university degree under a new incentive to lure quality graduates to the bush. Education Minister Rob Stokes said the free degree was one of 16 new changes in the NSW Government’s $140 million rural and remote rewards package intended to boost education standards in country schools.

“No matter if you’re in Woolloomooloo, Wyong, or Wagga, equality of opportunity in education is the keystone of the NSW public school system,” Mr Stokes said. With applications opening in 2018, the new scholarships will now fully fund the university degrees of 60 new teachers per year by paying their HECS debt if they accept a posting at one of more than 150 eligible rural and remote public schools. The new scholarships, available to HSC or university students, also include a stipend of $7,500 per year to assist students with their studies, along with a $6,000 ‘sign-on’ bonus to help with the cost of relocation when they start their new job.

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Mr Stokes launched the program at Finley Public School, in the Riverina region, where he stressed the importance of rural school communities in NSW. “Country schools are the foundation that rural communities are built on,” he said.
“This means no matter the town, wherever there are children, it must remain our priority to ensure there are well-staffed and well-resourced public schools.” Mr Stokes also announced a raft of new incentives in the package to entice senior and experienced staff out of the cities and regional centres to rural and remote locations.

“We want to attract the brightest young minds, but it is also important that they are supported by experienced mentors who will ensure the best educational outcomes are achieved for their students.”

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Changes to the Rural and Remote Rewards scheme include:
· Teachers who move to an eligible school will earn up to $30,000 per annum on top of their base salary depending on the school and their level of seniority;
· $10,000 ‘sign-on’ recruitment bonus for eligible positions;
· $5,000 ‘retention benefit’ paid annually up to $50,000 (10 years); and,
· Earn up to eight transfer points per year to assist with future career locations. (comparison, teachers earn one transfer point per year in Sydney metro schools).