This audit found that the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has not provided access to high-quality education for all students.
Students in rural Victoria make up 30 per cent of the student population. In rural Victoria levels of disadvantage are higher and educational aspirations and outcomes are lower than for metropolitan areas. This creates unique and complex challenges for government agencies.
This audit assessed the effectiveness of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development's (DEECD) activities to ensure that Victorians in rural and regional areas have access to a high-quality education and that outcomes for these students are maximised. The audit found that DEECD has not provided access to high-quality education for all students.
Rural students perform consistently below their metropolitan peers on a range of measures. While the gaps in performance are not always large, they have changed little over time and show no signs of improving. DEECD undertakes many activities that assist rural educators and students, but these have not resulted in a significant improvement in performance. DEECD has not developed a comprehensive, targeted strategy to address known barriers to rural students’ access and participation in education.
Recent adjustments to government subsidies for vocational education and training included an increase in loading for delivering training to rural students, yet it remains unclear how rural training options will be affected in the future. DEECD is developing a new rural and regional plan to target the educational outcome gap between metropolitan and rural students. However, it has been delayed, and there is no evidence that it will be sufficiently robust to make a difference.