Sydney-based teaching student Chapman Tai was so impressed by his experience in Gunnedah, he already has plans to return to the north west region during the practical component of his university degree.

Mr Tai, a former Baulkham Hills High School student, was one of several students who took part in a rural school visit program called ‘Beyond the Line’.

The five-day tour took in schools at Coonabarabran, Narrabri, Tamworth, Barraba, Taree, Quirindi, Binnaway, Mudgee and Gunnedah.

Mr Tai is in the second year of a four-year Bachelor of Education degree, majoring in mathematics at the University of Sydney.

It was an opportunity to broaden his teaching horizons that motivated him to take part in the program.

“I wanted to see what it’s like because I had no experience [in rural areas],” he said.

“And I’ve seen so much already.”

He said the class sizes were generally a little smaller than those in the city and had a nice “community feel” about them.

A visit to Gunnedah High School was an eye-opening experience.

“I had lots of perceptions about rural schools,” he admitted.

“I thought they didn’t get much funding, and I thought maybe they were a bit different to the city.

“But at every single school, there were so many great aspects during the whole trip.”

He even thought facilities at Gunnedah High School were probably better than those at his old school and commended the Gunnedah staff on their investment in learning.

He gave a special nod to GHS principal Donna Riley as “inspiring” and said the school was perfect for young teachers to go to because they could “build something from the ground up”.

Mr Tai said a return visit to Gunnedah could be on the cards during the practical component of his degree. This required him to embed in a school for several weeks.

“It would be good to see what it’s like to live there as well,” he said.

The city student said rural placements like Gunnedah were also a strong consideration for him post-graduation.

“I’m looking at starting in a rural school,” he said. “I think they would be a good place to start.”

The University of Newcastle student is in the third year of her Bachelor of Primary Education. Like Mr Tai, Ms Noble is also specialising in mathematics.

She described her time at Gunnedah Primary School as “super welcoming” and delighted at the personalised school tour delivered by one of the of the year 3 pupils.

Given her dad was a jackaroo, Ms Noble entered the program with some background in rural areas but conceded she had “no real idea what to expect”.

“I just wanted to know what [rural teaching] was like,” she said.

Ms Noble’s great experience with the program confirmed in her mind where she wished to make a career.

“I want to do my internship in a rural school,” she said.

“They need teachers around there so badly.

“I would have jumped off the bus and stayed if I could.”

A Department of Education spokesperson said there was a continued focus on delivering high-quality educators who were aware of localised needs to country areas as part of the Rural and Remote Education Strategy.

The strategy was also facilitating more partnerships with universities, increasing the number of pre-service teachers undertaking professional experience placements in these schools.

After successful completion of the study tour, applicants will be encouraged and supported to complete a future rural practicum through the program or to start employment in a rural setting following graduation.

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