The Western Australian government will reverse a number of its controversial education cuts including closing Schools of the Air (SOTA), admitting it took the savings measures “too far”.
Premier Mark McGowan and Education Minister Sue Ellery announced it will not close SOTA after backlash over the closures, keep Northam Residential College accommodation open and continue Level 3 teacher intake and Gifted and Talented Program funding.
“Education is pulling its weight, but upon reflection we realise we took it too far,” Mr McGowan said.
“We now need to get the balance right.”
Mrs Ellery said the announcement of the cuts in December had a negative impact on families and students, particularly in regional areas.
She said the government had listened to their concerns about the changes.
“In an effort to help fix the finances we made a rushed decision that left many people feeling anxious and distressed,” she said.
“We’ve listened to the concerns raised and took time to further analyse the impact of the savings measures announced both from a financial and education perspective.”
The measures were designed to save $64 million in the budget when they were introduced in December.
It included closing SOTA in regional WA, closing six camp school sites and ending teacher accommodation in Moora and Northam.
In Perth, Tuart College would close, Canning College enrolments would be restricted to overseas students, gifted and talented program funding would be cut by 25 per cent, Level 3 teacher intake would be on hold until 2020 and vacation swimming lesson fees would rise from $13.50 to $30.
The reversal will now bring savings to $41 million.
Mrs Ellery said it was the right decision to stop some of the cuts.
“These changes announced today strike the right balance and ensure that every child receives a high quality education, no matter where they live,” she said.
However, the State Government said they would continue to look for ways to save the state’s budget without affecting the state’s education standards.
“We won’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to the finances, but we won’t compromise the quality of education in the process,” Mr McGowan said.
Greens education spokesperson Alison Xamon said it was “just as well” that some of the education cuts were stopped.
“As time was moving on, the community were getting more and more outraged, particularly around the decision to axe the School of the Air,” she said.
However, she said there were more cuts that could be axed.
“Unfortunately, there still are some outstanding cuts that are going to be proceeding and very disappointed about that,” Ms Xamon said.
“The minister had said that she had gone line by line through the education budget trying to see what could be cut.”
“With respect, I’d say there’s still some money that could be cut from the education budget which would mean that the outstanding cuts could be reversed as well but clearly doesn’t seem to be on the radar.”