WA Education Minister Sue Ellery has again defended the Government’s $64 million cut to the education budget, pointing to two students who did not need the Gifted and Talented program (GAT) to top the state.
Last week, the McGowan Government outlined a suite of education saving measures over the forward estimates, including a 25 per cent funding cut to GAT programs at 18 schools across WA.
While the backlash continues to grow, Ms Ellery celebrated two students from public schools in the southern suburbs, whose results topped their Year 12 cohort.
“I think the interesting thing to note is that both of these two students were not part of a GAT program,” Ms Ellery said.
“This was their natural talent, and excellent teaching, shining through two of our fantastic public schools.”
Rossmoyne Senior High School’s Isabel Longbottom won the Beazley Medal for her ATAR results and Willeton Senior High’s Andreea Ioan was awarded for the result of her vocational education and training studies.
Ms Ellery remains confident public schools will continue to deliver the same quality of education, despite the GAT cuts.
“The GAT program will continue, they’ll do things in a different way,” Ms Ellery said.
‘No change to class hours’
The Education Department moved to clarify the teaching time for GAT studies would be unchanged because it was financed through “other Education Department funding which will continue”.
“The 25 per cent reduction is being applied to supplementary funding that is most often used for coordination, administration and additional student activities, [for example] competitions and excursions,” the department said in a statement.
Ms Ellery’s reassurances have not been enough for WA Liberal leader Mike Nahan, whose electorate of Riverton takes in both the award winners’ schools.
“It’s complete rubbish,” Dr Nahan said.
“It will be an attack on the schools.
“When you pull 25 per cent of money … out of a program it does have an impact.”
The minister also made a commitment to personally consult with the 120 families impacted by the decision to close all five Schools of the Air across WA.
“If they’re in the city, over January, I’d be happy to meet with them,” she said.
“If it’s easier for me to travel directly to the homesteads, or to the regional centres, I am happy to do either variation, whatever works.”
The offer was welcomed by the Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association, who claim they have requested a meeting with the Minister, with no response to date.
“It’s a good idea to give her an appreciation of the isolation some families live in,” WA President Tash Johns said.
“To visit all of them, however, is a huge and possibly unrealistic task.”