Murchison and Pyalong primary schools

26 November 2015

November 26

Ms RYAN (Euroa) — The adjournment matter I raise this evening is for the Minister for Education. The action I seek is that he take note of the two petitions I tabled earlier today, bearing hundreds of signatures from the residents of the communities of Murchison and Pyalong, and reverse his decision to strip those schools of their portable buildings.

We know that students in regional Victoria do not fare as well as their city counterparts on a whole range of measures, including year 12 attainment rates. We also know that a child's early years are absolutely critical to their development and to their future success. These portable buildings enable both Pyalong and Murchison primary schools to run early childhood programs. At Pyalong the building is not just used for music, sport and art programs, it is also a very valuable asset which enables the school to run a playgroup and before and after school care.

These services are vitally important to the community. Without before and after school care, particularly in Pyalong, many parents would have no choice but to take their students out of that primary school and enrol them elsewhere. That is particularly exacerbated by the fact that employment options are very limited in Pyalong and parents need to travel for work.

I am further concerned by the fact that the Department of Education and Training undertook its assessment of Pyalong Primary School at a time when the school's permanent staff were not present due to the fact that the inspection coincided with the funeral of the principal's husband and most of the permanent staff were obviously attending that funeral. As a result, the school feels that it has not had sufficient opportunity to put its case to the department. Its requests for a re-evaluation have been rejected.

At Murchison the portable gives the school enough space to run its Mother Goose program as well as provide a wonderful library that is accessed not just by the school students but also by parents with young children and the wider community. More than half of Murchison's population signed the petition I tabled this morning, which I think demonstrates just how important this issue is to the wider community. If this building is removed, students will be forced back into the original school building, which was built in 1906. It was where I started prep some 23 years ago. That classroom was deemed unsuitable for that purpose some 15 years ago now.

I am very concerned that this government is prioritising the needs of city students over those in the country. If Victoria is truly to become the education state, we need to stop viewing education in a siloed way that sees early childhood centres, primary schools and secondary schools treated separately from each other. Just because these facilities give these small schools the scope to deliver early childhood services does not mean they are over-allocated.

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