The Auditor-General’s Access to Education for Rural Students report in 2014 found that regional and rural students fall behind their city counterparts when it comes to academic achievement, aspiration and secondary school completion.
Falling enrolments, below-average Victorian certificate of education scores and consecutively poor NAPLAN results in the Shepparton district tell a similar story.
As part of the Shepparton education plan we have surveyed community views on current service provision, and the message could not have been clearer: our kids deserve better.
For the past six months our strategic advisory committee has been working hard, both in the community and with the Department of Education and Training, to develop a blueprint for change. We have visited schools across Victoria to see firsthand how others have overcome similar challenges of declining enrolments, socio-economic disadvantage and general lack of financial investment. After the first round of consultation four options were developed but were quickly refined to two, with the community-favoured option having the potential to bring fundamental change to the way in which education is delivered in Shepparton and Mooroopna by combining our four secondary schools possibly into one, but located on one or two campuses.
I acknowledge that this is drastic change, but the time for putting bandaids on the system has gone. It is time for transformation. The plan is to start with secondary schools, but we know that a child’s early years are the key to future success and have identified an immediate need for this to be addressed in Mooroopna. The advisory committee will be finalising its recommendation to the Minister for Education in preparation for consideration in the next budget.