Farmers offer to pay teacher’s wage
Three WA farmers say they would pay more than $60,000 from their own pockets to employ another teacher at a Wheatbelt school rather than send their children to boarding school in Year 7.
When the State Government shifted all Year 7 students from primary schools to high schools in 2015, it gave country parents three extra years to prepare for the change. This is the last year the exemption applies.
Education Minister Peter Collier has ruled out any extension but Labor has said it would review the exemption period if elected.
“We will conduct that review in consultation with those regional school communities who identify it as a particular issue for them,” shadow education minister Sue Ellery said.
Andrew Dunne, Gavin Poole and Ben Andrews, who farm near Beacon, 320km north-east of Perth, said if there was no extension they would offer to pay for an extra teacher at their local school. “We’d need to put in at least $20,000 each,” Mr Dunne said. “It sounds like a lot of money but it’s cheaper than sending them away to high school.”
Mr Dunne and his wife, Gemma, hope their youngest son, Lachlan, 9, can finish Year 7 in Beacon before following his three older brothers to board at Guildford Grammar School.
“I’ve seen what it does to your child and to your family to send them away. You go from being part of everything ... to parenting from a distance,” Mrs Dunne said.
Gavin and Joanna Poole said there would be a gaping hole in their lives when two of their three children leave for Perth next year.
Son Jarrod, 12, was able to stay in Beacon to finish Year 7 but daughter Brooke, 11, now in Year 6, will start boarding school next year. They hope to win a reprieve for their youngest child, Rhys, 9.
Mr Poole said the change was wrecking small towns because many people could not afford to send children to boarding school, “so they just pick up and go”.
“And when they do move, they don’t come back,” he said. “The next thing you know, they’ll try and close the school and say you haven’t got enough kids there.”
Mr Andrews said he did not think his sons were ready to cope with boarding school when they were just 11 or 12 years old.
“I struggled at 13,” he said.
The parents did not believe children who spent an extra year in the country were disadvantaged, because they had family support and their learning was not affected by homesickness.
While Mukinbudin District High School was another option, it was a 160km daily round trip and they did not believe the standard of Year 7 education was any better than that offered at Beacon. “There is no reason to send our kids away to high school. There is nothing they’re doing there that they can’t do here,” Mr Dunne said.
The parents were also concerned that removing older students was decimating junior sport teams.
The Education Department said 11 Year 7 students had been permitted to continue their studies at country primary schools this year.
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