Sally Cripps from the Queensland Country Life and ICPA Queensland President Kim Hughes (Pictured) looks at the different needs of isolated schools when compared to city schools…
As I wonder about a possible subject for this article, I’m not seeing a ‘view from the paddock’. Instead it’s a view from the Alpha Town Hall, where ICPA Queensland held its recent annual state conference. Fittingly, my view is of the Alpha State School across the road. I can see through the windows paintings and colouring in, depicting a vibrant, happy little school free of many of the constraints akin to schooling in urban areas. It really is the hub of this tiny community.
The need for more resourcing, staffing and services for rural and remote schools was vigorously discussed over the two-day conference. More support for students with learning difficulties, rural workshops to up skill teachers and parents in the gifted and talented arena, and the provision of a more adequate senior secondary curriculum were all highlighted. For attendees at the organisation’s 45th state conference, these are not new topics. In fact, they are mainstays on the agenda year after year.
So the big question is, “How do we think outside the box to bring about change” It is my experience that if you keep bringing the same issues to the same people you keep getting the same answer,” says ICPA Qld President Kim Hughes. “Let’s look at the way rural people spend money as opposed to their metropolitan counterparts. Based on location and lifestyle, priorities and needs vary greatly, like apples and oranges. Schools need to be considered the same way. We cannot apply the one size fits all rule… At the risk of being too simplistic, current models give all Queensland State Schools a bucket of money, topped up by grants based on loadings for various disadvantages. If the school identifies a need which is an ‘extra’ to the allocated funding, schools can take money from their own budgets to cover this.
“The problem is that in rural and remote locations, everything is an extra! Cultural and academic opportunities as well as specialist services all come at a significant cost, which, due to the lack of private options, is almost always borne by the school.
“Perhaps the out of the box answer is to have a completely different funding model which better fits the uniqueness of rural and remote schools? Something tailor-made to suit the centre of Alpha as opposed to the centre of Brisbane.”