The federal government has announced its decision to conduct a comprehensive review of regional education, a move which has drawn mixed reactions from the community.
The review was launched by Nationals leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce with the aim of getting more rural, regional and remote students to complete school and go on to further education and training opportunities.
Mr Joyce said the review would deliver on one of the government’s election commitments and seek fresh ideas to address key barriers and challenges that impact on the educational outcomes of regional students.
Federal Member for Parkes Mark Coulton welcomed the review.
“There’s a clear disparity between education in the bush and the city – this seeks to address the gap of achievement, aspiration and access to higher education faced by regional students,” Mr Coulton said.
“That’s why we want to hear from our regional communities in order to find solutions to build the skills of regional Australians to allow our youth better jobs and better opportunities no matter where they live,” he said.
Broken Hill City Councillor and teacher’s union representative Maureen Clark said the government already had the answers it’s looking for.
“I’m not sure why our politicians are asking for more reviews into the educational needs of rural and remote communities, we’ve had the answers for some time,” Ms Clark said.
“Many of these communities have a low socio-economic status which has a direct correlation with low educational outcomes and many previous studies have shown this,” she said.
“The most disadvantaged communities in NSW are actually in Mr Coulton’s electorate, which of course includes our schools here in Broken Hill as well as Menindee and Wilcannia.”
Ms Clark said the government should instead keep the needs-based funding delivered by the Labor government’s Gonski system, which it plans to end after this year.
She said that under the Gonski model, more teachers have been hired to teach students with proven results, such as higher rates of Indigenous graduation from high school.
The need for funding to be applied at an earlier age to achieve education outcomes is also an issue on Ms Clark’s mind.
“I certainly agree there should be a review, just not the sort Mr Joyce is talking about.”