Ru­ral schools ‘ crip­pled’ by grade move

Townsville Bulletin - - News - by Nathan Paull nathan. paull@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

A CON­TRO­VER­SIAL plan to shift Year 7 stu­dents from pri­mary to high school has been branded ‘‘ dev­as­tat­ing’’ for ru­ral fam­i­lies.

State Ed­u­ca­tion and Traini ng shadow min­is­ter Dr Bruce Flegg said the move would mean ru­ral and re­gional North Queens­lan­ders would have to send their chil­dren to board­ing schools ear­lier and for longer.

‘‘ The other big is­sue is that these small schools will lose stu­dents and their longert­erm vi­a­bil­ity could well be threat­ened,’’ he said.

‘‘ It’s not just about chang­ing from one class room to an­other. It’s about par­ents in re­mote ar­eas hav­ing to send their chil­dren away a year ear­lier to board­ing school, for six years in­stead of five, so there are sig­nif­i­cant ex­tra costs in­volved.’’

The is­sue had al­ready been raised by Cathe­dral School mid­dle school head Dar­ren Parks last month, who said wh i l e h e we l c o me d t h e change, par­ents would have to pre­pare chil­dren for high school at a younger age.

Mr Parks said par­ents had to make chil­dren aware they would have to leave home and leave the coun­try.

How­ever, he also said the move at a younger age would give stu­dents a smoother tran­si­tion into the higher grades of school­ing.

Dr Flegg warned while the changes would not have a ma­jor ef­fect on city schools, i t w o u l d c r i p p l e r u r a l schools, who could lose as many as 20 per cent of their stu­dents by cut­ting back to teach­ing Prep to Year 6.

Dr Flegg vowed to work with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties to stag­ger t he changes and would work with the Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum, As­sess­ment and Re­port­ing Au­thor­ity – the body re­spon­si­ble for de­vel­op­ing a na­tional cur­ricu­lum from kinder­garten to Year 12.

Dr Flegg said more than 50,000 Queens­land stu­dents and 1800 Year 7 teach­ers would be af­fected by the move of the grade.

‘‘ While the move may be seen as in­evitable un­der the Nati o nal Curri c ul um, i t should not be rushed and, where nec­es­sary, stag­gered and in full con­sul­ta­tion with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,’’ he said.

North Queens­land re­gional d i r e c t o r f o r E d u c a t i o n Queens­land, Mike Lud­wig, said plan­ning had al­ready been for­mu­lated for high schools to cater for Year 7 stu­dents.

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