Shepparton Education Plan protest this Friday

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Community members are set to pound the pavement tomorrow in protest against the Shepparton Education Plan.

As the roll-out of the plan continues, members of the ‘Stop Shepparton’s New Super School’ Facebook group are set to travel from the Department of Education and Training building on High St, Shepparton, towards the State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed’s office in protest against the plan.

With more than 1900 members in the group and a petition currently circulating the local area, group member Andrew Bock says having a physical presence to demonstrate opposition to the plan is important.

‘‘Nobody has been able to explain how or why warehousing our kids into one site is going to improve education outcomes,’’ Mr Bock, an independent candidate in the recent federal election, said.

‘‘The best argument I’ve heard for this huge change is an increase in VCE subjects being offered.

‘‘That is an argument in favour of a senior secondary school — like the one in Bendigo.

‘‘It doesn’t justify the massive disruption to students, families and local residents that is due to begin next year.’’

Facebook group founder Robyn Boschetti said the protest coincides with the last day of term two.

‘‘We decided that it would be a good time for students and parents to gather and show the government how opposed we are to the super school,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re basically six months away from the beginning of this major disruption and those in charge are still unable to answer simple questions, like who will be teaching Year 12 subjects.’’

A spokesperson for Ms Sheed said the office was made aware last Friday of the impending protest.

Ms Sheed began a period of leave last week and will not be at her office during the protest tomorrow.

‘‘We understand there are a range of community concerns regarding the Shepparton Education Plan and we have been canvassing widely to gauge those concerns which we are then feeding back to the Department of Education and the Minister for Education’s office,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘We have also reached out to the protest organisers to let them know Ms Sheed will not be available, but we are happy to offer a meeting when she returns from leave.’’

Education Minister James Merlino said the department was listening to the concerns being raised about the plan.

‘‘We know people in Shepparton care deeply about their kids’ education,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re listening to their feedback and adapting our plans for staffing, support structures and transition strategies, to ensure the school meets the community’s needs and expectations.’’

Mr Merlino said the Shepparton Education Plan was essential was ensuring a more positive future for education in the region.

‘‘For too long, student outcomes in Shepparton for literacy and numeracy have been below state averages, despite the dedicated efforts of schools and community groups to address disadvantage,’’ he said.

‘‘We simply have to do better for our kids.

‘‘That’s why we’re bringing our four local secondary schools together, to reset the system and give our students more opportunities, more support and work towards better outcomes.’’

Member for Northern Victoria Wendy Lovell shared her displeasure for the plan, calling on Mr Merlino to pause the plan during an adjournment debate in Victorian Parliament.

‘‘Issues raised regarding the planned new school include the lack of adequate government funding, poor consultation with parents, the forced relocation next year of students from their current school to a different campus and the lack of choice in secondary education that comes with amalgamating four schools into one school,’’ Ms Lovell said.

‘‘I urge the minister to immediately pause the amalgamation plans and listen to the concerns of the community ensuring proper consultation is conducted with parents and students to establish a consensus on the number of secondary colleges they want in the Shepparton community.’’

Mr Bock said he encouraged all in opposition to the school merger to take part in the protest tomorrow at 3pm.

He said a copy of the petition would be available to sign on the day and letters of concern would be delivered to Ms Sheed’s office.

‘‘Even if you’re just frustrated, put it down on paper and march with us to the member’s office,’’ Mr Bock said.

Ms Sheed’s spokesperson confirmed a staff member would be available on the day to collect the letters.