Australian state government Shepparton Education Plan details social crisis

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The state Labor government in Victoria is proceeding with its Shepparton Education Plan—at the centre of which is a staged merger of four public secondary schools in the regional city into one “super-school”—despite enormous community opposition.

Greater Shepparton Secondary School under construction [Credit: WSWS Media]

The first stage of the forced amalgamation has already resulted in catastrophic consequences for students and teachers alike. Student welfare and additional needs programs have been slashed, subject choices scaled back, and students crammed into three campuses, where previously there had been four.

Experienced teachers, dismayed by the changes, have left the school in high numbers, and violent conflicts between students have escalated to the point where ambulances and police have been forced to attend the school in response to emergencies.

The government announced the second and third parts of its Education Plan in April and June. The second part was focussed on the provision of preschool education in Shepparton, while the third stage dealt with Shepparton’s network of primary schools (for children aged 5 to 11).

Accompanying both announcements was cynical government rhetoric proclaiming the “transformational” nature of these policies, which supposedly are going to ensure that “children in Shepparton will get the best possible start in life.”

In reality, the government’s measures will plunge the public education system in the regional city into an even worse crisis.

Already there has been an exodus of students into private schools. This is set to further accelerate, following last month’s announcement of a new private combined primary-secondary school, run by the Anglican Schools Commission (ASC), a provider of religious private education. The ASC is receiving federal and state public funding to develop the $50 million project.

By undermining confidence in the public education system, the state Labor government is driving the privatisation of public education, as families who can afford tuition fees seek to escape the chaos of the “super-school.” For the most socially disadvantaged layers in Shepparton, however, there is no choice other than under-resourced public schools.

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