Pastoral WArelieved afterSOTA backflip
A collective sigh of relief was heard across regional WA as the State Government announced it would reverse the closure of the Schools of the Air.
Premier Mark McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery announced last week the Government would not proceed with cuts to SOTA, the gifted and talented program, the level-three teachers program freeze and the closure of the Northam Residential College.
With three children enrolled in the Port Hedland School of the Air, De Grey Station owner Mark Bettini said it was a great outcome for regional families.
“I let the kids know and they were stoked, so it’s definitely welcome news,” he said.
“I think for me, country kids punch well above their weight and plenty of people from the bush contribute to society in a really positive way.
“I’d like to get the message out there to parents and say ‘well done on having the decision reversed but don’t stop there. While we’re banded together let’s push the agenda of regional education and get the Government to spend some money on our regional kids’ education’.”
Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association president Tash Johns echoed Mr Bettini’s sentiments, saying the association was meeting with the minister to ensure the reversal was permanent.
“There is still a lot of consultation that needs to happen before we put away the boxing gloves,” she said.
“We need to know whether the reversal is for the long term, will each of the schools retain their principal and administration, will the camp schools still be available for students to use for face-to-face opportunities, and what will happen to Moora Residential College and our ag colleges?
“Our meeting with minister Sue Ellery next week will determine what further action the ICPA deems necessary — we need all the members we can get to keep up the pressure.”
The backflip follows an angry backlash from families in isolated and regional areas, which inclu-ded protests and petitions. Mr McGowan said it was clear from the public response the Government had gone too far and had made changes which had caused anxiety.
“Education is pulling its weight, but upon reflection we realise we took it too far when it comes to education services and we now need to get the balance right,” he said.
Nationals WA Member for North West Central Vince Catania, who organised and took part in protests against the closures, said he believed the Government was always going to change its mind on the closure.
“This was a campaign run by the people of regional WA which won the hearts and minds in the city and all over the country,” he said.
“The people deserve a pat on the back but more importantly, they deserve this win to keep regional education in the region.
Labor’s Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region Kyle McGinn said his office had been “inundated” with letters opposing the closure over the past two months.
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