Support needed to overcome disadvantage

Getting a good education is not as simple as kids turning up each day and doing as they’re told.

Any such simplistic notions were dispelled many years ago and yet finding the right way to maximise students’ learning potential is often out-of-reach.

Education is of vital interest to the community and the achievements of both students and the passionate educators who find innovative, exciting ways to teach, are regularly highlighted.

And so clearly there is a lot out there that is right.

But it also is no surprise that for many, going to school is anything but a positive experience.

What is especially concerning is that according to one leading educator, this is something that becomes far more common the further you travel from the big cities.

Professor John Halsey this week told a forum at the rural, regional and remote education inquiry how students’ results simply get worse as you make your way out of the big smoke.

Professor Halsey is leading the independent inquiry, which was set up by the Federal Government, and has completed around half the 20 nationwide forums – including in Dubbo – that it will hold to gather community views on a wide range of education issues. 

He made the point that “critical issues” such as education had to be more effectively targeted in the regions, noting how there was “some absolutely fabulous stuff our there” but that overall the level of achievement was “patchy”.

A lot of that, not surprisingly, comes down to disadvantage and poverty, he says.

The observations would find much agreement in our region, which has too many students, families, schools and areas rated in the “disadvantaged” category.

That is one of the main reasons behind the disquiet when increases pledged in the original Gonski schools funding plan were changed under a new Federal Government scheme.

Education will always present enormous challenges and it is true to say there is no panacea to the things that don’t work.

But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to give up on finding those things that do, which – it is heartening to see – is clearly the focus for some of our leading educators.

By continuing this approach we are sure to see more students reach their potential and, in so doing, create more vibrant rural and regional communities.