Cuts may hurt remote study
■ Students living in remote parts of the Pilbara will become more isolated and disadvantaged because of State Government funding changes, a peak representative body claims.
The five Schools of the Air are located in Port Hedland, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Derby, and Kalgoorlie.
They provide education for many children living on isolated pastoral properties, mining leases and communities located in the remote areas of the State.
As of 2016, funding will be directed for each student enrolled in every school.
Isolated Children’s Parent’s Association WA (ICPA WA) State president Liz Sudlow said that under the new arrangements, each of the five schools are set to lose $50,000 to $60,000 per year for the next five years until 2020.
She said that represented a 25 per cent cut in all five of the schools.
Ms Sudlow said at the end of the announced five year transition, the schools will receive no additional funding to compensate for the tyranny of distance between the location of school and its students.
“These changes will have serious ramifications for the students and their families,” Ms Sudlow said.
“Most of the students live hundreds of kilometres from the schools and have no other way to access appropriate education.
“The cuts will mean students living in remote areas of Western Australia will be even more isolated and disadvantaged, with higher teacher/student ratios and less money for vital educational resources, camps, teacher visits and home-tutor seminars.”
Education Minister Peter Collier said the Schools of the Air “are, and will remain, incredibly well-funded”.
He said the average allocation per student for 2016 was $30,290, compared to $12,088 for all other primary students. He also said there was one teacher for every five-to-six students.
“This compares to a teacher-to-student ratio of one teacher for every 16 primary students elsewhere in the State,” he said.
“The reality is Schools of the Air are not using all the money allocated to them. Last year, the five schools carried over between $200,000 and $300,000 each. This means an average 23 per cent of their entire budgets went unspent.”
Mr Collier said it was only fair education money went where it was needed under the new Student Centred Funding Model.
“The State Government recognises Schools of the Air have special requirements, and that’s why they will continue to receive extra allocations under Student Centred Funding,” he said.