Review aims to support smaller schools

Senator Bridget McKenzie and Emeritus Professor John Halsey discuss the education review in Bendigo on Tuesday.
Senator Bridget McKenzie and Emeritus Professor John Halsey discuss the education review in Bendigo on Tuesday.

SUPPORTING some of the region’s smallest and most disadvantaged schools to navigate departmental bureaucracy could be a priority from a federal government education review.

The independent review into regional, rural and remote education held a public forum in Bendigo on Tuesday where there were a number of examples of small schools in the region struggling.

One included a school in which its only teacher, who was also the principal, regularly works Saturdays to complete administrative work.

A Bendigo Senior Secondary College-run program in which smaller schools can access BSSC’s classes online was used as an example of improving learning at remote schools.

The independent review is being run by Flinders University Emeritus Professor John Halsey.

He said governments needed to ensure small remote schools could run as efficiently as possible.

“Often small numbers of students are seen as a disadvantage,” Professor Halsey said.

“This person has had about 25 years experience being a teacher in a small school, what he’s doing is turning that small school into a really high performing educational experience for young people.

“But a disadvantage he has to grapple with is a huge overlay of administrative work.”

The $152 million independent review has traveled to most states and territories. The Nationals promised the review in the lead-up to the last election.

It will next travel to Wodonga on Wednesday.

The final report is due by the end of the year.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie said they wanted to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to regional, rural and remote schooling.

She said the best solutions came from local communities – and they needed to be given the chance to make it work.

“What works in Carwatha is not going to work in Swan Hill, is not going to work in Bendigo,” Ms McKenzie said.

“For too long we’ve let education unions, departments of education run this space. Let’s start listening to the students.

“It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’ve heard some great examples of things happening in the regions that we want to see broadened, but also how we can see collaborations working better.”

The state government is also holding a review into education, focusing specifically on Bendigo.

Three community consultation sessions were held last month to help formulate the Bendigo Education Plan 2028, which will cover schooling from primary education through secondary and higher education and training.