Not everything is rosey in the garden of regional education

THAT students from regional, rural and disadvantaged areas will suffer most due to the state government’s cuts to Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning programs is now official.

As forecast by The Courier earlier this year, the annual $12.3 million funding cut to VCAL was ill-conceived.

Yesterday, state auditor-general Des Pearson confirmed what many had been saying - that the cuts risk eroding opportunities for students who previously used VCAL courses.

Mr Pearson was scathing in his report: “Important commissioned research was ignored, and stakeholders, including schools, were not consulted about the likely impact of the changes. DEECD (the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development) did not have sufficient evidence to assess the impact of funding changes on schools’ ability to meet the growing demand for VCAL, and, in turn, on the impact that this would have on future completion rates”.

The major impact of the government’s cuts is that local coordinators for the program will no longer be funded. It means schools will be forced to determine if adequate resources exist to operate these vital programs. That in itself is bound to end in disappointment.

Education has been an area of great change since the Baillieu government took office two years ago. It has copped significant criticism for cuts not only to VCAL but also to TAFE funding. The ongoing wage dispute with teachers remains outstanding and problematic.

One interesting point also in the auditor-general’s report is that Victoria has failed to significantly improve school completion rates in the past decade. The government will take this as some justification for the sweeping changes it has made in the past 24 months. It emphasises that our education system is not, as some may believe, as good as it could be.

Whether it is enough to convince mums and dads in regional cities like Ballarat that the funding cuts are relevant and required is another matter altogether, and one that will need to be sorted out well before the 2014 poll.

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