Polwarth MP Richard Riordan says Colac and district needs a plan for “complete reform” of education that “brings the community together”.
Mr Riordan said that, while he could not make an election promise, he had considered options for a flexible-learning centre and strengthened opportunities for students at local businesses.
He said the State Government had not provided enough assistance to some Colac and district schools to address low attendance rates, which prompted the need for reform.
“That is no way to have an education system,” Mr Riordan said.
“Let’s create the environment where they can go to that school, be challenged and educated in a way that’s appropriate for them.”
He said that two primary schools in the Colac area should have expanded enrolment boundaries.
Mr Riordan said the site of another primary school could then become a centre for secondary-school students disengaged from mainstream schools.
“I would turn that primary school into an alternate-stream secondary school that very much targets kids at risk, and or who do not just want to be academic and want to have more trade,” he said.
Mr Riordan said his proposal would increase opportunities for Colac’s mainstream secondary schools to continue to “strive for excellence”, making the schools attractive to skilled workers moving their families to Colac.
He also suggested that Colac and district businesses needed to offer “a traineeship in absolutely every single type of job that goes in this region”.
“If we do that right across town and actually work it in with education we’ll get these kids staying in school,” Mr Riordan said.
A 2017 Brotherhood of St Laurence report found that for a number of students in Colac Otway Shire, financial and health challenges made education only “one of many priorities”.
“The availability of local entry-level jobs to young people comes at a cost; with many choosing to end their education prematurely for short-term financial gain,” the report said.
One of the report’s suggestions was that “funding should be sought to establish well-resourced alternative-education programs”.
Two re-engagement programs currently address the needs of Colac and district students.
One program, funded by Lavers Hill P12 College, helps students complete Year 12 or equivalent at Colac’s Skills Connection facilities.
But Mr Riordan said that the program, while funded by the State Government, had been set up through grants by “the creativity of people who care about this issue” and lacked secure funding.
For the full story see today’s Colac Herald.