MLC chips in to ease pain of farm crisis

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
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One of Perth's top schools has recognised the tough times farmers face through a new scholarship program for teenage girls from rural communities.

Farmers have sent daughters to board at Methodist Ladies' College for more than 100 years and the school wants that tradition to continue as a record number of Wheatbelt families seek counselling for financial hardship.

MLC will offer 20 boarding scholarships over the next two years for girls not already enrolled at a private Perth school to cover fees from Year 10 to Year 12.

Based on this year's boarding fees, it is a $1.15 million commitment from next year to the end of 2017.

The college and Shell will offer the separate Shell Australia Regional Science Scholarship to cover boarding and tuition fees from Years 10-12 for one rural girl in each of the next four years.

MLC principal Rebecca Cody said the college wanted to support regional areas and promote education for girls.

She said boarders at MLC joined an extended family with a rich history. "The first boarders at MLC arrived in 1908 so for us it is about giving back to the communities that have really supported us for more than 100 years," Ms Cody said.

The State Government shifting Year 7 from primary to high school has caused widespread anger among farmers, who often have no option but to board children in high school. It gives them an extra year of boarding fees and children aged 11 will have to spend long periods away.

Beacon farmer Andrew Dunne presented a petition from 4000 country residents in May calling for the move to be scrapped.

Ms Cody said some parents from rural areas had raised the issue of their children boarding from a younger age.

Ms Cody said earlier boarding could cause difficulties for some families and the school had older girls to mentor Year 7s.

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