THE Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Education James Merlino visited Cowes Primary School last Thursday to announce a statewide $82.8 million funding package.
The funds are supposed to double the internet speed of state schools across Victoria, better support country students and help address the lower standards being achieved at regional schools compared to city schools.
It will also target teacher supply issues outside Melbourne by attracting teachers and school leaders to state schools in country areas and supporting them to stay.
In making the announcement, Mr Andrews drew on his own experience as a student in Wangaratta.
“Despite the pride, strength and resilience that comes with regional living, we do know there is a big difference between regional students and their peers in Melbourne,” Mr Andrew said.
“We want every student in the education state to get the skills and the competence and the confidence that they need to be able to realise the unique potential that belongs to them.”
Also speaking at the funding announcement was Cowes Primary principal Rodney McKenzie who agreed he was familiar with the issue.
“We haven’t had too many gaps at Cowes Primary school. We’re very lucky we live in a beautiful part of Victoria.
“But I know of other schools that have had those challenges. There is great practice in every school, the challenge is to ensure there’s great practice in every classroom,” he said.
The funding is a response to the findings of an expert Advisory Panel into Rural and Regional Students.
Their review listed some of short comings in Gippsland and surrounding areas where one school in the region experienced a drop in median study scores 29 to 23 between 2009 to 2018; 30 being the overall VCE median.
The school is not in Bass Coast or South Gippsland but remains a concern.
A total of $37 million of the funds will be shared out as follows:
• $13.2 million to enable rural and regional students to attend VCE revision lectures in Melbourne, saving students up to $1000 on registration, travel and accommodation costs
• $7.8 million to expand professional development for teachers and leaders in rural and regional areas
• $5.1 million to support rural and regional schools to work in clusters to strengthen curriculum delivery
• $3.7 million for outreach and virtual programs – such as the John Monash Science School Rural Exchange Program – for regional and rural schools
• $2.5 million to increase access to mentoring, role models and information about post-school pathways
• $1.4 million for Victoria’s Tech Schools to host and offer STEM programs for regional and rural students
With VCE revision lectures running throughout the year, Mr Andrews understands how valuable they are.
“My son travelled just five minutes to a lecture last night,” Mr Andrews said.
“But if you live 100km or 500km from the city, getting to that lecture and getting not only all the material that’s covered in the lecture, but also talking to the teachers and to other students is important.
Wonthaggi Secondary College principal Darren Parker understands the benefit of revision lectures.
“To have funding encouraging our students to attend VCE revision lectures will be appreciated,” Mr Parker said.