Jacob Manning is a third-year Bachelor of Education student at La Trobe University in Bendigo. Last year, when Jacob was assigned a placement at a small primary school in Talbot, over an hour’s drive south-west of Bendigo, he knew he would face some challenges in terms of attending the school five days a week for the three weeks of his placement.
“I wanted to do the rural placement,” says Jacob, “but I was concerned about the travelling each day. Placement can be pretty demanding, and with assignments due in as well, to be driving back and forth over hour each way on top of that felt like a lot.”
Jacob looked into financial assistance for students in situations like his. He found out about the scholarships directory on the La Trobe University website, where he discovered the Kluwell Publications Educational Bursary. The bursary offered one-off $1000 payments to offset the financial costs of placements in rural towns.
“It’s worth it.”
Kluwell Publications is a Bendigo company publishing reading guides used in primary schools across Australia. Company founders Andrew Coldwell and Stan Kluzek have both worked as principals and teachers in smaller regional and rural schools.
As students both Andrew and Stan relocated in order to complete their studies. They have a good understanding of the practical and financial obstacles that can face student teachers and schools in rural locations. They hope the bursaries will make it easier on students who have to travel significant distances to do their teaching placements.
Andrew says Jacob’s circumstances fit the philosophy of the bursaries exactly. “We’d like to see students get experience in smaller rural schools, because that’s where I suppose we would eventually like students to work,” he says.
“We’re all teachers here at Kluwell and we know that there are some great things happening in rural schools,” says Naomi Parker, Kluwell’s Director. “This bursary can give students the opportunity to be exposed to a different kind of school environment.”
Jacob says the application process was simple and quick. He was told he was successful within weeks of applying. He strongly encourages other students to apply.
“A lot of people can’t be bothered with the paperwork. My advice is: it’s worth it. I just filled in some forms, scanned some things and sent an email. It took a couple of hours.”
Jacob used his bursary to pay for accommodation. With assistance from Talbot Primary School he found lodging with their IT consultant, who lived in Maryborough, around 10 minutes’ drive from Talbot.
Living closer meant Jacob could become more deeply involved in school activities outside the classroom.
Daniel Hammond, a teacher at Talbot Primary and one of Jacob’s placement supervisors, was very pleased with the extended involvement the bursary facilitated for Jacob.
“Living locally meant he was able to be here by 8 o’clock each day so he could get prepared and get into the right mindset,” says Daniel. “It also meant he didn’t have to drive over an hour to get home, so he was able to stay longer and be more involved in after-school extracurricular activities.”
Jacob agrees that the shortened travel time gave him more time and energy to plan lessons.
“I wasn’t rushing to get it done,” Jacob says. “I had time to think, ‘I wouldn’t mind trying out this …’ I could really enjoy it and maximise my learning.”
Andrew and Naomi explain that while Jacob used his bursary for accommodation, there are no expectations as to how students can use their bursaries to ease the burden of rural placements. Previous recipients have used the money to cover the cost of travel between home and school. Andrew also suggests it might be used to offset lost salary if a student has a job and needs to take time off so they can do their placement.
“The richest learning I’ve done.”
Jacob speaks admiringly of the professionalism of Talbot Primary School, in particular the school’s focus on wellbeing, which allows their students to benefit from the holistic approach a smaller school can take.
This care for wellbeing was also reflected in the way Talbot’s teachers worked with Jacob.
“The teachers were amazing,” Jacob says. “They gave me heaps of constructive feedback, but it was all positively toned. It was probably the richest learning I’ve done out of all of my placements to date.”
Jacob says he has always been interested in teaching in rural schools, inspired, he suspects, by a childhood in the tiny South Australian town of Renmark before his family moved to Bendigo when he was four.
“I’ve always thought about investing myself in a small school,” Jacob says. “It’s things like the community factor, the small class size, greater parent involvement… I saw that while I was at Talbot. It’s a really good school.”
For now, Jacob is focusing on third year, but he has begun sounding out what looks to be an ongoing relationship with Talbot Primary School. Recently he helped to develop and deliver a woodwork class for the school’s cross-class clubs program, showing some of his old students, and some new faces, how to build a birdhouse.
“The kids were quite happy to see him and find out what he’d been up to,” says Daniel. “The scuttlebutt seems to be that they’re quite glad he was willing to come back and do this just for them.”
Applications for the Kluwell Publications Educational Bursaries are open between now and 31 December 2018. To find out more about them and how you can apply, visit the Kluwell Publications Educational Bursaries page on the La Trobe University website.
Other scholarships and bursaries can also be found on the La Trobe University website’s Scholarships page.