Regional schools are fighting to keep up with the city

HEARING THE ISSUES: Senator Bridget McKenzie and Professor John Halsey met with about 20 education representatives at The Cube on Wednesday. Pictures: Simon Bayliss
HEARING THE ISSUES: Senator Bridget McKenzie and Professor John Halsey met with about 20 education representatives at The Cube on Wednesday. Pictures: Simon Bayliss

A visiting professor said access to education for students in rural communities has “got to be better.”

He revealed on Wednesday that regional students are fighting for success against a widespread trend that shows schools’ results become worse the further away they are from capital cities.

Professor John Halsey said this was one of the challenges the sector faced when he visited Wodonga on Wednesday to host a forum in the rural, regional and remote education inquiry.

“In order to ensure we have vital, productive rural communities, critical issues like education have to get a better rap,” Professor Halsey said.

“There’s some absolutely fabulous stuff out there, some great achievement, but it’s patchy and it’s got to be better across the board.”

He said results at regional schools were linked to poverty and disadvantage.

“It produces a toxic effect: kids are behind not just one eightball, but if you want to put it somewhat colourfully, about eight eightballs,” he said.

Albury High School principal Darryl Ward said his staff were often dealing with students’ disadvantage, mental health and social issues. He called for an improvement in support from health agencies.

“Schools are very much at the forefront of first intervention and supporting the community in the very difficult cases,” Mr Ward said.

“Education is not always the answer to everything – there needs to be a whole of community response and that’s not always happening, which makes it hard for us.”

Albury Wodonga Community College chief executive Rodney Wangman said it would be helpful to predict how many families would be struggling.

“It’s the teachers that see that, the schools and the principals who work to try to deal with those things,” he said.

“If you’re looking to the future, you need to address that.”

Professor Halsey was happy to see people involved in apprenticeships and entrepreneur programs.