HE WASN’T sporting a big white beard or red coat and he arrived in a government car instead of a reindeer and sleigh.
But Tim Richardson, the Parliamentary Secretary for Schools had all the swagger and presence of Father Christmas when he visited the South Gippsland Specialist School yesterday.
And he came bearing gifts, of the very best kind.
“I’m here today to make an announcement,” he informed a surprised but puzzled Principal Heather Braden.
“We’re providing $200,000 from the Inclusive Schools Fund for a new playground.
“It’s been a highly competitive process with 197 applications and 53 successful but yours showed a lot of the inclusive values we were looking for and easily qualified.”
“We what, we got it. OK, wow this is exciting,” said a genuinely surprised Ms Braden, as if opening a present on Christmas morning.
“I mean, I knew we had applied but I didn’t know we were successful. I’ll just grab the girls who wrote the application,” she said, racing off to share the joy with Assistant Principal Tania Pell, Speech Pathologist Claire Aeschlimann and others.
The news then spread like wildfire and the whole school was on a high at the start of the last school week.
“The playground is currently not inclusive because those in a wheelchair or who might have mobility issues are not able to access all areas of the playground,” Heather said.
“The surfaces we have a very natural but because of the pine bark and the uneven gravel surface, it’s not conducive to a wheelchair being able to get on the surface. So, we’ll be reducing the amount of pine bark we’ve got in the school and we’re going to change it to Rubbertough.”
Mr Richardson was delighted with the response.
“We want our schools to be more inclusive. South Gippsland Specialist School already does an incredible job for our community here in
Leongatha and is a centre of excellence and expertise across the South Gippsland area.
“We want these areas,” he said referring to the existing playground, “to be more accessible so no child is excluded and when we come back here and see the inclusive play space this funding will provide, we’ll see that no child is excluded and will get that opportunity.”
“This has been a high-quality application, so 53 applications across our state have been successful including 13 in rural and regional areas.
“And we were really pumped up before Christmas to come down here and announce that South Gippsland Specialist School will be getting $200,000 to create this new, accessible space.”
The $200,000 grant will enable a Rubbertough surface to be laid under the playground at the school with enough left over for a swing, agility course, sand area, play hut, tunnels, ladders and water play area.
The funds come from the additional $10 million announced in this year’s budget, as part of the Labor Government’s $40 million Inclusive Schools Fund.
“As we build the Education State, we’re continuing to invest in schools to ensure students of all abilities can access a great education – regardless of their circumstances,” Mr Richardson said.
“This is great news for South Gippsland students, who will get the benefits of new inclusive spaces to cater for a wider range of options for teaching and learning.”
Specialist School gets visit from Santa’s little helper