10 August, 2021
Distance ed families fight for facilities
A petition has been released for the facilities to be returned to their former state.
DISTANCE education families are fighting for their accommodation facilities to be restored across the district with a new petition set to be delivered to State Government.
The Longreach and Emerald schools of distance education joined forces with Member for Gregory Lachlan Millar MP in a bid to raise awareness and gain support in reinstating these P&C built and maintained facilities.
“This is an issue of equal and fair access to education, regardless of where a child lives,” Mr Millar said.
“If we can get enough signatures, perhaps the Queensland Education Department will rethink these very unfair closures.”
The closure of accommodation at the Longreach School of Distance Education (LSODE) in 2016 meant parents and teachers would need to find alternative accommodation during mini school, where families can gather, connect and support each other in fun and educational activities.
“In Longreach, our tourist seasons happen to coincide with our major school events… so the availability of accommodation is limited, especially for families,” LSODE P&C President Rachael Webster said.
“It can be quite expensive at that time of year for families.
“The three big issues for us are availability, affordability of accommodation and the connection between the families and the students.”
Ms Webster has been involved with the LSODE for 13 years, with her two youngest currently in year six and nine.
“Teaching your children at home can be a really challenging thing and it’s a little bit isolating,” she said.
“We have lots of our families who live hours and hours from any other people, so all school communities are really important and we need to be able to support the people who are new or might be struggling in our school community.
“It’s not always clear sailing teaching your kids, and we want to be able to support those people and connect with them, so those are the things we’re working on.”
LSODE families could pay over $1,000 to stay in Longreach during mini-school which can go up to a week – a cost that is not always affordable for local families.
Mr Millar said mini-school was an essential part of a distance education student’s development, and the petition comes down to a number of things, including fairness.
“There are several reasons they built the buildings in the first place, but the key one is fairness,” he said.
“Every child should have the same access to education, regardless of their postcode.
“While the facilities are basic, they had operated safely and effectively for decades until Queensland Education locked them up and denied access.
“The reasons given keep changing. The P&C’s keep offering to fix any issues such as smoke-alarm upgrades or disabled access or insufficient concrete pathways to the buildings.
“Every offer has been rejected or new issues found.”
To sign the petition, visit the State Government’s website.
The petition closes to the public on October 7.