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NSW teachers to be given free degrees under push to attract more young staff to the bush

A man in a blue button up shirt sitting at a table with young school students who are working on a maths problem.
NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes says the new incentives will help attract and retain teachers.

ABC News: Sarah Gerathy

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The New South Wales Government will pay off the HECs debts of 60 graduates each year if they sign up for a posting at one of 150 eligible rural and remote schools around the state.

The move is part of a revamped $140 million package aimed at boosting education standards in country schools.

There are currently more than 200 staff vacancies at rural schools.

The scholarships, which will be available from 2018 to HSC or university students looking to study teaching, will also include a $7,500 annual stipend to assist student teachers with their studies and a $6,000 sign-on bonus when they start their new job.

Making the announcement at Finley Public School, about 150 kilometres west of Albury, Education Minister Rob Stokes said it meant young teachers would be able get years ahead financially by moving to a country school.

"These incentives really make it a no-brainer," Mr Stokes said.

Incentives aim to attract bright young minds

Mr Stokes said there were also changes to the incentives offered to attract and retain more experienced teachers to eligible remote and regional schools, including:

  • Bonuses of up to $30,000 per annum on top of base salary, depending on the school and level of seniority
  • $10,000 "sign-on bonus" for eligible positions
  • $5,000 annual retention bonus, paid in cash available for up to 10 years.
A map of NSW with the sites for new teaching HECs reforms.
The incentives will apply to 150 eligible rural and remote schools around the state.

Supplied: NSW Department of Education

"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," Mr Stokes said.

Mr Stokes acknowledged previous incentive schemes had failed to prevent teacher shortages in the bush, and conceded the new measures were not a magic bullet.

"It's always been a struggle and I anticipate that it will continue to be so," Mr Stokes said.

Finley High School principal Helen McCrae said recruiting and retaining good staff was one of the most challenging aspects of her job.

"It can be a huge issue," she said.

Moving to the country to be a primary school teacher

A man in a blue button up shirt standing in front of a brick wall.
Finley Public School teacher Nicholas Campbell believes moving to the country has given him more time to spend with his family.

ABC News: Sarah Gerathy

One teacher who has made the move from Newcastle to Finley in January is Nicholas Campbell.

He said moving to the country was good for his career and for his young family.

"There's more time to spend with the family because the commute to work is a 100-metre walk," he said.

An independent review commissioned by the Federal Government will deliver its report on how to attract and retain teachers at regional, remote and rural schools by the end of the year.