Constituency question -My constituency question is to the Minister for Education. Can you advise what action is being taken to ensure internet access for some of the Shepparton district’s most vulnerable students?
Communications with the school principals of Gowrie Street Primary School, Mooroopna Primary School, Mooroopna Park Primary School, St Georges Road Primary School and Wilmot Road Primary School indicate significant challenges and concerns about how some of our most vulnerable students are going without access to reliable and affordable internet.
These five schools are part of the Greater Shepparton neighbourhood schools project, which represent highly disadvantaged communities across the Greater Shepparton region. It is concerning that approximately 169 families across these primary schools are without reliable internet.
Despite the schools’ best efforts to purchase internet dongles and routers and provide support and advice to families on other sources of internet, such as hotspotting or public wi-fi, the lack of dongles and routers, the unreliable nature of hotspotting and data costs for these families have created a real barrier to continuing their education.
I share the concerns raised by the principals of these primary schools that students are losing the opportunity for regular contact and connectivity with their teachers and peers. It substantially disadvantages the ability of these students to access the same learning being completed by their peers and students at other schools.
The rollout of 57,400 computers and nearly 15,800 internet access devices over the three first weeks of Term 2 required a huge effort from schools with support from the Department of Education and Training’s Information Technology Division.
This includes 506 computer devices to eight schools and 987 internet devices delivered to 21 schools across the Greater Shepparton LGA.
Preceding this rollout, the Department undertook a survey of Victorian government schools to determine what support is needed for schools in the provision of computer devices and internet access devices for students learning at home.
Over 90 per cent of schools have responded to the survey. The information supplied from the survey responses has informed the Department’s sourcing and allocation actions. Vulnerable and disadvantaged students are prioritised in allocation with secondary students having the highest priority.
Throughout the remote and flexible learning period all schools have provided paper-based materials and work packages for any students who do not have access to a computer or the internet.
Parents or carers of students, or the students themselves, who need support with gaining access to these resources are advised to contact their school/school Principal.
The Hon James Merlino MP
Minister for Education
Minister for the Coordination of Education and Training: COVID-19