Future of district education

October 11, 2017

The community is urged to voice its opinion on the four options in the Shepparton Education Plan.

Community workshops taking place this week provide all of us with an opportunity to have a say in the future of our schools.

The Victorian Government has said the consultations are a chance to bring about ‘‘truly transformational change’’ in our local education system and we agree.

Low school retention rates, high youth unemployment and more young school leavers not engaged in further study or full-time work indicates things are not working as well as they could be in our four state secondary schools.

In saying this, we should be careful not to blame teachers, who face a daily battle of engaging students in the face of an all-pervasive social media, the scourge of family violence, and performance testing.

The world is in a state of flux — digital expansion and the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence means workplace requirements are no longer what they were — so school curriculums must change.

On top of this, social shifts in culture, gender and racial tolerances and wealth distribution, place extra pressure on schools to be places of safety, role modelling and counselling.

During these times of seismic societal changes we ask a lot of our school systems, our school buildings and of our teachers.

So now is a good time to look at bold options for the future and to grasp the chance to deliver a new education model which will sustain the coming generations during the 21st century.

The Shepparton Education Plan contains four choices — the first two of which are options for our schools to continue operating as they do now, with little no change.

Options three and four in the Shepparton Education Plan involve creating a new state-of-the-art secondary school, on either one or two campuses.

The new school would be formed by merging the existing four secondary schools, to create one new secondary school, with a series of smaller ‘‘houses’’ within a larger school.

This model would also offer a new trade skills centre, technical school and children’s centre.

Dandenong High School, with about 2000 students from more than 65 different cultural backgrounds, is cited as a successful ‘‘school within a school’’ model.

This might seem a move away from the rural idea of a school as a nurturing village to one of an urban corporate model of business excellence.

But the fact is, secondary schools have been operating as self-sustaining businesses for decades.

The creation of a single, large school would hopefully also provide the infrastructure for an over-arching administrative section, allowing the smaller ‘‘houses’’ to get on with the daily task of nurturing and teaching.

Whatever the outcome, we believe these consultation sessions provide a real chance to deliver ground-breaking positive change for our local schools.

We urge everyone to contribute to the discussion.

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