ICPA happy to see education drought costs on agenda

Federal recognition of drought impact on education pleases ICPA

News
Aa

Financial assistance for schools that cater for students in drought-affected areas, announced on Thursday as part of the federal government's latest drought response, has been well received by the Isolated Children's Parents' Association.

Aa

Financial assistance for schools that cater for students in drought-affected areas, announced on Thursday as part of the federal government's latest drought response, has been well received by the Isolated Children's Parents' Association.

While the rural education lobby group has been lobbying for a Rural Hardship Education Fund as a way of allowing families cope with educational expenses when nature doesn't play ball, federal ICPA president Alana Moller said this week's announcement was very pleasing.

"At last there is recognition of the cost of education by the government, which hasn't been acknowledged before," she said.

The $10 million announced is for non-government schools in drought-affected areas, and boarding schools servicing students from those areas.

A number of them have introduced fee relief and other measures to ease the financial burden on families, which in turn is impacting the schools' short-term viability.

Related: Schooling now a critical drought problem

While full details are not due to be released until next Tuesday, it's understood that schools will apply individually for the funding, much as the Special Circumstances program instituted for schools following the February monsoon operates.

No cap on the amount that can be applied for has been announced, but the schools will need to provide financial evidence to support their claims.

Speaking to journalists in Canberra on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison recalled his visit to the Tully family at Bunginderry, Quilpie last August, which he said stayed in his memory.

"One of the toughest families I've seen are the Tullys.

"But when Mrs Tully... the only time she broke down, after all of the things she's been through, which includes breast cancer, by the way, the thing that really got her upset was worrying about whether she could keep her kids in school.

"And this is as much for the mental health and wellbeing of these families as it is, of course, for the education of the kids themselves."

The Tullys live 80 kilometres from Quilpie, which has a P-10 school, and had three of their five children at boarding school in Brisbane and two studying via distance education.

They were spending around $50,000 annually to educate their three oldest children and Mrs Tully told Mr Morrison the challenge was around whether to keep them in boarding school, "or do they not be educated".

Independent schools welcome support

Queensland's independent schooling sector has welcomed the $10m, with executive director David Robertson saying the schools serving drought-ravaged communities were providing record levels of support to families in the form of tuition and boarding fee remissions and counselling support.

"Independent schools have been working closely with families and doing what they can to maintain the continuity of their children's education and to provide ongoing counselling and wellbeing support," he said.

"However, with weather forecasts showing continuing dry, hot conditions through the summer months and independent schools receiving more requests for assistance, the current situation is unsustainable."

He thanked federal Education Minister Dan Tehan for his proactive approach to recognising the needs of schools enrolling students from drought-impacted areas.

He said ISQ put forward a case to the government for emergency education support for these families as well as those parents who were battling on quietly, too proud to seek help from their schools.

"Minister Tehan and the Australian government have again listened to the needs of Queensland school families, as they did after the devastating North Queensland floods, and have responded with compassion and welcome funding relief."

There are currently more than 3300 boarders living away from home at 33 independent schools in the state.

The government will also provide $5 million from the Community Child Care Fund to support early learning centres, and the families who use them, in drought affected areas.

ICPA president Alana Moller said her organisation would encourage continued assistance for droughted families, many of them with children at small schools, in a variety of ways.

"Our advocacy has put forward a number of issues impacting families, which is why we believe a rural hardship education fund should be permanently in place," she said. "It would be there to help families in a variety of natural disaster situations, rather than them having to jump through hoops each time these situations come along."

Read more: Queensland councils hail federal drought package

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by