Schools still struggling

Latrobe Valley high schools are still struggling to adjust to $12 million in annual funding cuts to the state’s Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning program, more than 12 months after the State Government’s announcement of the drawback.

Utilised by about a third of Latrobe Valley’s Victorian Certificate of Education-aged students, VCAL provides practical work related experience to students who respond to “hands on” learning.

Kurnai College principal Anthony Rodaughan said with 150 VCAL students enrolled, the school had one of the biggest groups in Gippsland, and had made a number of “difficult” cuts across its wider curriculum.

Among the roll backs, Mr Rodaughan said the school was ending its community VCAL, an intermediary program for students who “struggled in mainstream school settings”, this year, and had rolled back a careers advisor role, from full time to part time.

“With less work opportunities out there at the moment, we do have more kids staying in school, so if anything we are seeing an increased demand for VCAL and VET (Vocational Education and Training) courses,” he said.

“But we now have less resources to do a bigger job; and this affects students from disadvantaged backgrounds more than our well-off students, because it is the students with a poorer background who have much less social networking connections, and less chances of finding work.” Lowanna College principal Jason Bek said the school was still feeling a “huge impact” as a result of the cuts.

“VCAL is a critical program for us, so we’ve had to cut far more harshly into other areas; we’ve really had to review and modify every area of the school to prop it up,” Mr Bek said.

Mr Bek said while the school had been able to shoulder the extra costs through cuts to wider curriculum changes, it may have to pass costs onto parents in 2014.