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Year 7 move spells anguish for rural and remote families

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Kristy Heelan, in her homestead school room with Jack, 5 and Abi, 3
Disturbed by the Bligh Government’s announcement to move Year 7 into secondary school from 2015, Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association (ICPA) president Lorraine McGinnis said rural and remote families would face enormous emotional and financial burdens from having to send their children to boarding school 12 months earlier.

She said the move would have most impact on students enrolled in Schools of Distance Education and in small rural and remote schools from Prep to Year 7.

“The youngest year 7 students in 2015 will be 11 years and seven months-old at the beginning of the school year,” Ms McGinnis said.

“This is something very difficult for families to come to terms with – nothing can compensate for the emotional burden of having to send children away to boarding school.

“Our major concern is that the move won’t be properly resourced.

“The current federal government boarding allowance is 45% of the average boarding fee and the state government tuition allowance is 49% of the average tuition fee.

“Based on those average fees, families are paying upward of $12 000 per year, per student.”

With the new move families will now have to finance six years of boarding fees, rather than five.

Graham and Kristy Heelan, beef producers at Pasha Station, 150km north east of Clermont in Central Queensland, have three children, Jack, five, Abigail, three and Sebastian, 9 months.

Without access to a nearby school, Mrs Heelan will teach all three children through Distance Education for their primary school years.

“Having our children leave home for boarding school is difficult enough – but having to send them a year earlier is quite distressing,” Kristy said.

“Emotionally, it’s going to be tough. We have them for such a short time before they have to go away – before we lose that close contact and guidance.

“Financially, it will be extremely hard to pay boarding school fees for three children for six years per child.”

Lorraine McGinnis said boarding fee allowances were eroding from three to four percent per year and increased fees were expected.

“There has been no mention of the effect of removing a cohort of enrolments from small remote schools, often with just one teacher.”

She said distance education wasn’t an option for many families.

“When it comes to secondary schooling, many home tutors are untrained and often it’s not possible to have an adult available for a full school day – and home tutors are unpaid.

“As pastoral care of young students is vital, we would want to see the 2013 trials included in boarding schools with geographically isolated students.”

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Information and interviews contact: Paula Heelan, ICPA Qld publicity officer,
0417 835 283 or email: QldPublicityOfficer@bigpond.com