Cheaper schools an option for remote families, education minister says

Grace Grace provides "out of touch" response to living away from home allowance concerns


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Education minister Grace Grace speaks during Question Time. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

Education minister Grace Grace speaks during Question Time. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)

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Families in rural areas without access to a local school have been advised to send their children to state-run boarding facilities, use the School of Distance Education or choose boarding schools with lower fees, in response to concerns about the gap between rising education costs and living away from home allowances.

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Families in rural areas have been advised to send their children to state-run boarding facilities, use the School of Distance Education or choose boarding schools with lower fees, in response to concerns about the gap between rising education costs and living away from home allowances.

The statement came in response to a question on notice posed by Gregory MP Lachlan Millar on whether education minister Grace Grace would increase allowances, based on the Isolated Children's  Parents' Association reports of the gap between subsidies and tuition fees. 

"Where a situation arises, and a child does not have access to a local school, a family can choose to access one of the available state boarding facilities, the School of Distance Education or access one of the numerous private schools with lower fees and sibling discounts to minimise their out-of-pocket expenses," it stated. 

Queensland ICPA president Tammie Irons said for rural and remote families using boarding schools, it wasn't always as simple as choosing the cheapest or closest school. 

"There are eight shires in Queensland without a high school and another three that don't go all the way to Year 12," she said. 

"When choosing a school it might that some people choose to travel 100km to fly to Brisbane rather than drive 500km to Townsville. 

"It isn't actually just about choosing the cheapest school, it's about choosing the right one for your child."

Ms Irons said the ICPA was specifically asking for a $4000 increase to the remote area tuition allowance.

"At the moment the average out of pocket expense for parents is $7,112," she said. 

"For a lot people there would still be a $2000 or $3000 gap even with that increase.

"Most schools have been very good with flexible payment plans... but they can't wear it forever either." 

Ms Irons said the ICPA also wanted the government to use the education sub-index to calculate annual allowance increases rather than the consumer price index. 

It isn't actually just about choosing the cheapest school, it's about choosing the right one for your child. - Queensland ICPA president Tammie Irons

Ms Grace said the government was very aware many families in rural and remote Queensland were doing it tough and to assist families in need, they were covering the cost of tuition and boarding fees for flood-affected families attending state-run boarding schools. 

Dalby State High School, Spinifex State College in Mount Isa and Western Cape College in Weipa are the only state schools in Queensland that take boarders.

Ms Grace said students attending privately-run boarding schools were already eligible for the Remote Area Tuition Allowance and the Remote Area Travel Allowance. 

"Although some Catholic and independent schools have made their own arrangements for students experiencing hardship, I have written to the federal education minister Dan Tehan," she said. 

"I have asked Mr Tehan and the Morrison government to urgently fund a special assistance package to deliver additional support direct to families with children attending Catholic and independent schools, above and beyond that provided by the Palaszczuk government."

Mr Millar said he thought Ms Grace's response to his question was "out of touch" with the needs of rural families. 

"This is just something we need to provide to rural and remote students and if we invest in them they will be tomorrow's bush doctors, midwives, accountants and professionals who will come back to our communities," he said. 

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