No benefit from ‘ill advised’ cuts

FEARS State Government cuts to Victoria’s training program VCAL could create a two-tier education system in low socio-economic regions like the Latrobe Valley will be raised with State Education Minister Martin Dixon soon.

Kurnai College school council president Steve Van Rooy told The Express last week the Valley’s three state secondary colleges had joined to document the anticipated impact of several key State Government education policy changes on local students. A decision to stop funding VCAL co-ordinators in schools is expected to save the State Government over $12 million but the Auditor-General Des Pearson tabled a report in State Parliament late last year saying the decision was not evidence-based, was ill-advised and would widen the gap between rich and poor students.

Mr Van Rooy agreed, saying “we don’t want to see our state system being just a safety net for those kids from tougher social economic groups…we have some real positive momentum gathering with education in the Latrobe Valley now and (these cuts) would pull the proverbial rug from under their feet and we will lose that momentum.”

Mr Van Rooy said Kurnai had worked hard to overcome challenging circumstances and “there is some real pride filtering through now”. “But if they cut this (VCAL) funding it will create a false economy since retaining kids at school saves the community money in other ways, like it keeps kids out of trouble with the police and off welfare payments”.

“I know it’s the view of a lot of teachers who see no reason not to set the bar high for these kids, they want a state of the art education for them, but they need to be supported.”

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe acknowledged VCAL was a “vitally important component” of education and training “and that’s not in question”.

He said while the cuts were “around co-ordination” of VCAL in schools, “I hear the message loud and clear being put to me on this point, that there is greater impact on the local (state) schools compared with, for example, elite metropolitan schools”. Mr Northe said, after the schools raised their concerns with him over VCAL cuts, restructuring of the Education Maintenance Allowance (which helps low-income families with education-related costs) and funding for school maintenance budgets, he asked them to “document how they expect the changes to impact on their local school community so I have specific local detail to take to the minister.”

Mr Northe said while there was a “need for broader policy changes” he understood “maybe the impact of those on local schools is not well enough understood, particularly in schools with a number of disadvantaged students or which are socially isolated”.