A MEETING between NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli and school principals and parents has reaffirmed funding commitments to the Ashford, Bundarra and Emmaville (ABE) central schools senior program.
Mr Piccoli met with the group, which also included NSW Teaches’ Federation representative Marty Wheatley and DEC representative Frank Potter, prior to the NSW Community Cabinet meeting in Armidale on Monday.
While funding details for the next 12 months will only be released next term, Mr Piccoli guaranteed there would be enough funding to continue the program.
Due to small class sizes, teacher allocation doesn’t allow the teaching of a wide range of subjects, meaning students at the three-school study some subjects internally, and some through the Dubbo School of Distance Education.
A review into the 10-year-old ABE program recommended that the program be continued, but a 2011 audit showed students were being counted twice as students of the schools and of the Dubbo organisation, which led to a drop in funding.
Emmaville Central School principal Veronica Slattery was among the schools’ representatives, along with Ashford Central School principal Mick Lewis and relieving Bundarra principal Jack Dolby.
Emmaville has four senior students this year and will have nine next year.
Ms Slattery said the 30-minute meeting reassured the principals and parents, but they still want to know the figures before Year 12 students begin study in term four.
“That’s when we’ll know what we’ve got in the budget to use,” Ms Slattery said.
“There was also discussion about looking at alternative modes of teaching.
“They include video conferencing between a cluster of central schools in the Northern Tablelands and sharing resources with other schools.”
Among the distance education subjects are physics, business services, modern history, construction, metal and timber technology and visual arts.
The ABE schools work together on professional learning and travel to Dubbo together twice a year for a week-long study camp.
“It’s a chance to meet face-to-face with the distance education teachers,” Ms Slattery said.
“We’re a tiny school with five staff. They’re superb teachers but with five teachers you can’t have the breadth of curriculum capacity, so the distance program is the only way for students to study these courses.”
Ms Slattery said students had been distressed about the situation.
“Right now is the time when students are finishing Year 11 and about to start Year 12 next term, that’s why we needed to have the urgent meeting,” she said.
“If the program ended, some kids would have had no option but to enrol in distance education and do it on their own, which is incredibly difficult.”