A hot and cold debate

24 Jun, 2013 02:00 AM
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YEAR Sevens were the hot topic in State parliament last week when the issue was debated by Upper House members.

But it still met with a cold reception from the government.

The spirited debate saw Labor MLC Darren West and Education Minister Peter Collier go head to head with their points of view.

Mr West initially bought the matter to parliament in May when he tabled a petition, signed by more than 4000 concerned country parents, calling for a review into the compulsory transition.

He called on Mr Collier to look into making allowances for rural and regional communities.

Mr West said he wasn't asking the State Government to change the world, he was simply asking for a little tinkering of the transition policy.

"I am not having a go at the transition policy," he said.

"In some cases it works. But the Minister has to understand that there are going to be some exceptional circumstances that need to be looked at."

Mr West said the 68 primary schools throughout the State, which have less than 100 students and are more than half an hour away from the nearest high school, would be most affected.

"If I was the Education Minister, I would say to all of those schools, 'you will be able to teach Year Seven at the school if the parents choose to keep their children there'," he said.

"This way then at least everyone knows that yes, you can keep your kid at that school, rather than have it as a disincentive for people who live in or who are considering moving to that particular town."

But Mr Collier made it clear the government would not be going down that path.

He said he did not want a two-tiered system.

Mr Collier recognised that in some instances families would have some sort of exceptional circumstances and in those cases students could be exempt over the three-year transition period, but they would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"We won't be having an exemption for entire schools in an overall sense," he said.

Mr Collier acknowledged the concerns that many parents had were legitimate and said the government was working towards addressing those concerns and covering all gaps.

"But whenever you have changes, particularly in the service industry, those changes create areas of concern," he said.

"I am not diminishing those concerns, I realise there is a significant amount of unrest and it is incumbent of me as the Minister to placate that unrest."

On his reaction to the motion raised by Mr West last week, Mr Collier said it was a relevant issue to raise, and the government would over the next 18 months, try and meet those concerns of community members.

Mr West hit back at Mr Collier's comments in regard to the two-tiered system.

"Someone has convinced him and The Nationals that by excluding some country schools from the transition there would be a two-tiered system." Mr West said.

"But I would argue that a teacher who currently teaches the State curriculum from Year Four to Year Seven students would be quite capable of teaching the national curriculum.

"Plus, the national curriculum deliberately says that it is designed to be taught wherever Year Seven is being taught now."

Mr West also criticised The Nationals for not representing their electorate.

"Their electorate, which includes the 4000 people who signed the petition, want what we are proposing, so why aren't they supporting that," he said.

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