Monday, 16 January 2017

Rural Academy

I have been agitating for a strategic approach to improving rural education for over 20 years with nothing to show for it. The ideas that I and countless other experts in rural education including the states auditor general have all been fair, reasonable, practical and achievable. A state funded select entry school for a small group of rural students is not the answer to the the growing gap between student in rural and metropolitan Victoria! 
I think supporting ALL rural students to get access to unique educational opportunities and experiences in Melbourne would be a great idea. ( Travel costs let alone accomodation costs make regular visits to museums, zoos, galleries etc prohibitive) An expensive to build  school for a select few is not the answer.
Governments just don't get it! The Coalition government totally ignored rural education for 4 years, the current government thinks their 'Gonski' contribution to school budgets will make a difference ( it isn't just about the money) and the Federal Government just doesn't give a damn.I don't know how much all this is going to cost but I'm sure the money for it could be better used helping all rural students ( including helping rural schools to be better identify and support 'gifted students')

Story in today's Age

The smartest state school students from across Victoria could board for the first time at a new academy for gifted children, with the Andrews government investigating its construction next to Melbourne High School.

The institution would be built at a site next to the select-entry boys' school in South Yarra and provide much-needed services for gifted students from regional Victoria.

"The Government wants to ensure that regional students get access to the excellent education resources provided by select-entry schools," Education 
The idea has been in the pipeline for a number of years, and was given a significant boost following a 2012 parliamentary inquiry into gifted education.

The Education Department has appointed Ernst and Young to investigate the funding, construction and governance of the academy as part of a feasibility study.
The Victorian School Building Authority states that the project is now in its planning phase.

In 2014 the former Coalition state government pledged it would spend $10 million building the gifted academy if it won the election.

This would include a 40-bed boarding facility which would be used during the school term as a residential college for rural students enrolled at selective-entry high schools.

The opposition's education spokesman Nick Wakeling criticised the Andrews government for not building the academy earlier.

"A Liberal Nationals Government would have had this school built now and ready to take its first wave of students," he said.

In 2013, the not-for-profit Melbourne High School Foundation bought a site on Chapel Street, which has a planning permit, for the academy.

The school has also submitted a proposal to the Department and said in a 2015 report that the academy would would "act as a hub for professional training, research and program delivery as well as a residential hostel for regional students who gain entry to our select-entry schools."

Australian Catholic University gifted education expert Dr John Munro said many gifted students were not being identified, and could feel isolated in smaller, rural schools.

He said a gifted academy would provide students with mentors, and exposure to new ideas and other gifted children which may not be available in the country. 

"Exposure to more people would challenge their thinking more broadly," he said.

He said rural gifted students would be able to share their unique knowledge with their city counterpart, and vice versa. 

Carmel Meehan from the Victorian Association for Gifted and Talented Children said it was important for gifted children to work alongside like-minded students.

"They also need opportunities to allow their gifts and talents to flourish with staff who understand them and can teach them physically, mentally, socially and academically," she said.

Ms Meehan said rural families with gifted children were screaming out for support.

An Education Department spokesman said that the study would look at the potential costs and operating models for the academy.

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