The State Government has succumbed to pressure from concerned families and from industry, announcing that amongst other reversals, the Schools of the Air (SOTA) will remain operational in regional Western Australia and the Northam Residential College will remain open.
In a media statement released this afternoon, the McGowan Government acknowledged they had made a rushed decision last month that had left many people feeling anxious and understandably distressed.
Minister for Education Sue Ellery also vowed that the changes announced today would ensure that every child will receive a high-quality education, regardless of where they live.
WAFarmers Senior Vice President Lyn Slade said the reversal, alongside confirmation that the closure of the Northam Residential College would be reversed, would help to restore confidence in the Labor Government’s commitment towards education.
“WAFarmers is delighted by the announcement made today from the McGowan Government to reverse a number of education saving measures, including the controversial closure of the Schools of the Air,” Mrs Slade said.
“We sincerely thank Minister Ellery and the Premier for listening to the concerns of those that this decision would affect and for recognising the devastating impact that closure of SOTA would have on isolated communities.
“WAFarmers also congratulates all those involved in keeping this issue at the forefront of the political agenda – it is a true testament to the effect of people-power that this decision has been reversed.
Mrs Slade said a WAFarmers survey which sought feedback on the closure of SOTA had received 1,300 responses, with 96.54 per cent of respondents opposed to the closure of SOTA and subsequent management by the School of Isolated and Distance Education (SIDE).
“The response to this survey was overwhelming, with the majority of respondents citing the need for fair access to high quality education, the differences in operation between SOTA and SIDE, and the need to keep children in the regions as being the most concerning issues,” Mrs Slade said.
“WAFarmers would like to thank everyone who took the time to provide their valuable feedback.”
Mrs Slade said WAFarmers still planned to meet with Minister Ellery regarding other education saving measures including the closure of regional camp schools, the significant cuts to the Boarding Away from Home Allowance, closure of the Moora residential college and the Government proposal to take 20 per cent of funds from the Agricultural Education Farm Provision Trust.