Dear WA Government,
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I'm writing today not as an opinionated blogger who seems to have something today about everything. Nope, today I am writing as a former country school student. I am writing as someone who has always assumed that their future kids would be students of a country school. I am writing as someone who has multiple siblings who attend a country school.
Let me give you a bit of insight before I start my somewhat of a rant. I spent my two years of prep school and twelve years of schooling at Wongan Hills District High School. Ten years of schooling with the teachers and staff of Wongan and two years of education through SIDE. I have one younger sister who has just finished year twelve, something similar to what I did, but she didn't do her final years through SIDE, she did hers with the school teachers. I also have another four siblings who are set to do similar things in future years.
Nearly a month ago you announced that you have decided to make huge decisions about education that has a more so effect on the rural areas of the country than the metropolitan. You said "We all need to make sacrifices to reduce the State debt" however from the information I have read, you probably should have said "The country needs to make sacrifices to reduce the State debit, while all available funds go straight into the city."
You are going to get rid of 170 valuable members of the education system, your going to make these decisions that are affecting the future of the rural students.
Firstly, and the decision with the biggest impact on the rural areas is your decision to close all of the School Of The Air. Parents of the students that are set to be impacted from 2019 have reported the there was absolutely no consultation with them, the people who are with a wealth of knowledge, before the decision was made. You've decided that with the closing of SOTA, SIDE is going to pick up all the students. This is the bit where I get to have an opinion.
The parents are concerned with a lack of home visits, a lack of one on one teaching and how it is going to affect the students having a teacher in the city and them being all the way out in the middle of no where. As a former student of SIDE I can 100% see where their concerns are stemmed from. While I did well and I would never say that SIDE was a bad education institution. In regards to a lack of home visits- there is very little chance that the teachers are going to travel for their students. Living only two hours away from the city we didn't get any n school visits and if you wanted to meet your teachers you had to travel to Leederville. However, once you were there you might not even meet your teachers. I went on one SIDE visit with my Wongan peers and while some of them met every one of their teachers and I met two of mine and each meeting lasted ten minutes. In regards to the concern of a lack of face to face, the lessons are provided through a Skype-escque program in classes with multiple other students from multiple other places around WA. In most of my classes I sat at the metaphorical back of the class and merely listened while the other students jumped in. It is my opinion that piling an even bigger work load on the SIDE staff is by far a bad idea, can the staff deal with an even bigger work load? Are students so far away from their teachers going to benefit the students that you think are helping?
In my school year seven camp was a right of passage, an entry way to high school of you will. It meant from that year on you would get at least one week of a camp per year, and more than one kid would put it as their favourite moment of the year in the Wonga (our end of year book.) My year seven camp was too Geraldton camp school, as was Cadet camp in year eight. I remember my sister getting home from Kalgoorlie camp school and talking about it for another week straight. It was pretty much the same story last year when another of my sisters went to Pemberton last year when she spent her Cadet Camp there.
However, now that you've decided to close down five camp school and get rid of all the staff- Bridgetown, Dampier, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Pemberton, I have two younger sibling and there are many other students who are not going to get experience what we got to experience. The tree top walk the everyone gets to do on the Pemberton camp, the kayaking and rafting on the Gero camp and the mining tours on the Kalgoorlie camp. All that fun and hands on education is now gone.
In August 2016 former education minister Peter Collier made an announcement that there would be an $8.7 million upgrade to Moora Residential Collage. Apparently Peter Collier saw what you couldn't. That rural families need more options than to have to fork out the ridiculous fees of a private school eduction. However you have decided, that instead of these upgrades that were due to begin in March, you've decided to not only shut down one residential collage in Moora, but shut down everyones second option- Northam Residential Collage. Moora Residential Collage last year housed approximately 32 students that come from far and wide, areas from Karakin in the south to 80 Mile Beach in the north. You're now forcing the families of these students to make the decision- return to the closest school to their hometown, relocate the whole family, or pay the fees of a city school. All the while city students aren't affected at all.
Should we discuss the other decisions you've made, apparently for the greater good of apparently the whole state. A price hike on VacSwim holiday swimming programs, a 25% cut of funding to the gifted and talented program in Bunbury and a complete cut of funding for Landsdale Farm School. So what are you planning to do with all the money that your saving at the expense of every rural students education? Maybe on the $120 million expansion to the WA prison network that you announced a week after these cuts were announced? $96.3 million to Casurina and $23.7 million to Bunbury to add more beds. Are criminals more important to Bunbury than the gifted and talented program? OR maybe the money is better suited to $68 million dollar inner city collage you announced for Subiaco? Maybe its better to keep the money with the education department, just in an area which will benefit more metropolitan students than rural students.
The vast majority of WA is a rural area, so why are your main focuses on the metropolitan area? Don't all students of WA deserve the same chances and access to education as each other not dependent on where they live? I mean you already cut the boarding away from home allowance, and now you want to tear the country education down even more? maybe you should spare a though for the struggling rural families who are now in a panic over they education of their children. You haven't done this for the good of that state, you have done this for the good of the city with no second thought to the impact it has on the rural area.