My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education, and the action I seek is that he take steps to implement the recommendations of the strategic advisory committee in relation to the Shepparton education plan.
In this year’s budget Shepparton district received $1 million to put together an education plan that would transform the way schooling is delivered in the region.
We formed a strategic advisory committee to guide the process, and over the past six months the group has been working hard both in the community and with the Department of Education and Training to develop a blueprint for change. In June we asked the community for their thoughts on the state of secondary education being provided to our children, and they had plenty to say. Residents turned out in impressive numbers to the local workshops, they completed detailed surveys and they gave feedback on online comment boards.
The response was overwhelmingly that our kids deserve so much better than what they are getting at the moment. They reflected our unsatisfactory NAPLAN results and our lower than average Victorian Certificate of Education results, and they reflected the poor state of enrolments — especially at Mooroopna Secondary College, where student sign-ups have dropped drastically and consistently, from 772 to around 350 in less than 10 years. Across the board they reflected that parents are leaving state secondary education in the Shepparton district on a continuing basis, and in the meantime our private schools are bursting at the seams.
We have known this for some time, but to hear the same message from so many people in our community was invaluable and helped to inform the next step, developing a suite of options for a way forward that was released for further community consultation in recent months. These include a full range of options, from maintaining the status quo to doing a short-term patch-up job on our existing schools to combining the four secondary colleges into a mega school with modern, state-of-the-art facilities. The advisory committee has taken heed of the community feedback and has now made its recommendation to the minister.
This is without a doubt a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It will be some years until the full education plan is delivered. In the meantime I am very concerned about issues of capacity relating to Mooroopna Secondary College that parents of students at that school have raised with me. We must ensure in the interim period that these students are receiving the education they deserve. Our committee has also identified a very strong need for resources to address early childhood issues, particularly in Mooroopna. Attention to an appropriate intervention that might be reflected in an integrated children’s centre or hub has been seen as a priority in our recommendations.
The minister will require significant funding to be obtained, and we will be calling on him in the lead-up to the 2018–19 Victorian budget to advocate for our community’s evident need for transformational change in the education sector.