Rural, regional and remote education review hears from education stakeholders in Guyra

SCHOOL FORUM: Member for New England Barnaby Joyce, Flinders University professor John Halsey and senator Bridget McKenzie at the regional education review workshop in Armidale.
SCHOOL FORUM: Member for New England Barnaby Joyce, Flinders University professor John Halsey and senator Bridget McKenzie at the regional education review workshop in Armidale.

PARENTS, teachers and politicians came together to share their concerns at a regional education review.

Held in Guyra and Armidale this week, Teachers Association president Michael Sciffer raised the need for reliable support for public schools.

“In my opinion, governments of all persuasions have failed rural kids for a long time in providing educational opportunities that they have a right to,” Mr Sciffer said.

“I think that there’s already plenty of research around, there’s plenty of expertise in schools, I think it’s just about our government’s willingness to actually take action that will make a difference.”

Led by Flinders University professor John Halsey, the independent review into regional, rural and remote education in Australia is visiting regional communities to understand the challenges they face.

Guyra Central School Acting Principal Gillian Davis said a lack of casual teachers was a bug issue.

“We also talked about distance … and the cost to get children extra learning opportunities,” she said.

Armidale Teachers Association president Michael Sciffer said one of his biggest issues was the shift away from the original Gonski model.

“In particular because we were the schools that were getting the most out of that, it was rural education, that’s identified by Gonski as the biggest gap – that’s where the money was flowing,” Mr Sciffer said.

A lack of services in smaller, more rural schools was also a big issue.

Getting experts in curriculum, disability support teachers, autism support and teachers that can work with students with learning difficulties out to the bush appears to be a problem across the board.

“Also the casual teacher shortage is just phenomenal, all the schools here have talked about casual teacher shortages,” Mr Sciffer said.

“We’re surprised for a university town, but every principal I’ve spoken to has told me there are severe casual shortages in this town.

Member for New England Barnaby Joyce attended the forum, along with Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie.

Making informed policy decisions was the main reason for the review, Mr Joyce said.

“Ideas do not just come into our head as a member of parliament that we can then form policy from,” he said.

“It’s got to have a vastly more substantive base.”

The forum visited Guyra and Armidale, before heading to Narrabri and Dubbo.