[singlepic id=218 w=320 h=240 float=left]Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt has thrown his support behind the Bellenden Ker State School to prevent the school being ‘mothballed’ and has also taken aim at the review process.
Mr Pitt said Bellenden Ker State School is one of 15 schools across the State undergoing an annual review by Education Queensland due to declining enrolment numbers or forward estimates show it is unlikely there will be growth in numbers in the longer term.
“It is important to understand that no decision has been made at this stage. Education Queensland representatives have given assurances that all the information and community views will be considered before making any decisions about the school’s future,” Mr Pitt said.
Mr Pitt called on Bellenden Ker school community members to express their views during the consultation process.
“So long as discussions are undertaken in good faith by all parties, there is hope that the school will continue to operate into the future,” Mr Pitt said.
“We only have to look at nearby Bartle Frere State School which was in the same situation last year. The school P&C developed a ‘Future Vision’ for the school and increased enrolments through various strategies.
“The school held a ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ and picked up two enrolments and there will be at least 20 students enrolled next year. The establishment of a family playgroup aims to provide a future flow on of enrolments to the school.
“In the end, the proposed mothballing of Bartle Frere State School was turned from a negative to a positive by the community as they got together to support the school and continue to do so.”
Mr Pitt said while it would be premature to speculate on an outcome for Bellenden Ker State School until community consultation was completed, he expressed concern with the current process of selecting schools for mothballing.
“I understand it isn’t possible to have small schools everywhere in Queensland – it wouldn’t be workable from a resource or operational point of view for the government,” Mr Pitt said.
“But I am concerned that decisions can be based on numbers and resources alone, and there’s a great deal of confusion as to why some schools are on the list one year, and not the next.
“If it takes roughly the same resources to run a school of 17 students as it does to run a school of five students, we really should be clear about at what point a school is no longer viable.
“The Government needs to rethink the mothballing policy to ensure the process is equitable and can provide a degree of certainty for the school communities concerned.”
Mr Pitt said that while the experience last year made the Bartle Frere community more strategic and proactive in supporting their school, there were some anxious moments and not all schools will have the ability to respond as quickly or in the same way.
“I’d like to see reviewed schools given more than one year to reverse the trend before the axe was to be swung in their direction again,” Mr Pitt said.
“I’ve contacted my colleague Jason O’Brien to swap notes, and I’ve offered my support to LNP Member for Hinchinbrook Andrew Cripps who has two schools in his electorate facing possible closure.
“At the end of the day, this issue is bigger than party politics. It’s about supporting our smaller communities and providing the best educational outcomes for students at these schools.”
Bellenden Ker State School P&C President Rodney Quabba said he believes smaller schools provide a better education for children.
“Because the kids are exposed to other age groups I feel they all perform above their age level,” Mr Quabba said.
“Parents also have much better access to smaller schools. If kids have learning difficulties it is picked up and dealt with much quicker.
“Three generations of my family have attended this school and I know of another family where four generations have attended.”
“I know our local member appreciates the advantages of a small school education as his wife Kerry attended Bellenden Ker State School and she won’t let him forget it.”