What we do know about how the bush government has been reshaping its education system is that it has been an expensive and complex project, which is why the Australian Institute of Education has called for a “fundamental change” in the way the government is spending its education funding.
The institute’s report on the bush school reforms released this week said the government was “trying to make the bush system work” by reducing the number of children attending the school and creating a “favourable” school environment.
“In doing so, the government appears to be trying to make education more affordable for children in remote communities, with the aim of increasing participation by children who already attend schools,” the report said.
It also highlighted the fact that the reforms were being made without any consultation with parents.
In an interview with Fairfax Media on Wednesday, Education Minister David Johnston said that while the government had consulted with families and the bush community, it was not making the changes without consulting parents first.
Education Minister David Morrison (@DavidMorrisonaus) September 30, 2019 “As far as we know, the only thing that the government has said to parents is to get their kids into schools,” Mr Johnston said.
“We haven’t asked them to make these changes for them.”
However, the report does say that “at least three” families who attended a local bush school in July were still “disappointed” and felt the reforms did not go far enough in their children’s education.
Its also possible that the changes could “disappear into the background”, the report added.
“[A]n alternative would be for the federal government to set up a separate, government-funded school that was run by private providers in the area, and then the children of those parents could go to that school,” it said.
The report noted that while parents were “welcome to send their children to the new school” under the new reforms, it warned that “children who do not attend the school at the moment may well have to return to their existing school in the next few years”.
“This would not only be an unnecessary hardship for families, but it would also be an expensive disruption to the lives of children in the bush,” the study found.
As part of the changes, the federal Government is also reducing the maximum number of students a child can attend per school year from five to three.
That’s in addition to the three children a year currently allowed to attend in the community school.
Mr Johnston said the changes were “compelling” and he believed “they will deliver a better school environment”.
“They are going to give parents the flexibility to decide where their children go to school,” he said.
Mr Johnston told reporters on Wednesday the reforms would also help families to choose the “best school for their children”.
“We want to help families in remote areas to choose their schools,” he told reporters.