The gap between performances of rural Victorian students and their city counterparts is not narrowing, a report says.
Rural students have long lagged behind their city cousins and the education department’s actions to date have had little impact, Victorian Auditor-General John Doyle says.
“There is a persistent gap in achievements and outcomes between rural and metropolitan students,” Mr Doyle said in his report tabled in state parliament on Thursday.
“There is no sign that the gap in performance is likely to narrow.
“Indeed, in some areas of performance, the gap is getting wider.”
Rural students trail metropolitan students on academic achievement, attendance and finishing high school.
Barriers to their achievement can include distance to training providers, education quality, financial issues and having low aspirations.
While the gaps in performance between rural and city students are not always large, they show no signs of improving, Mr Doyle says.
His report found the education department has not provided high-quality education for all students.
Mr Doyle said it has failed to develop a strategy to overcome barriers to rural students.
While the department is now working on a plan to address gaps in outcomes, it has been delayed.
Mr Doyle made a series of recommendations, arguing it is critical that the department get the plan right.
Premier Denis Napthine says the government is concerned about rural and regional students’ year 12 achievement rates and access to tertiary study compared with city students.
The government had invested in helping students through providing affordable university student accommodation in Warrnambool, Geelong and Ballarat.
It was also investing to improve school retention rates, he said.
“We’re certainly working at the secondary education level and the tertiary education level with additional funding to encourage more regional and rural students to participate in education at the highest levels,” he told reporters.