Government renews grant to parents group

27 Mar, 2015 01:00 AM
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MEMBERS of the Isolated Children's Parents' Association were elated with news the government would financially assist it.

ICPA members were informed the State Government and Education Department will provide a $10,000 grant towards its operations.

The ICPA has received $9350 from the department in past years.

ICPA treasurer Elaine Egan said the ICPA last received the grant in the 2010/11 financial year.

"This year we requested that it be re-instated," Ms Egan said.

"Our request was declined, instead the department offered to provide 'in kind' support.

"We subsequently sent a request for some financial assistance to Education Minister Peter Collier and awaited his reply."

ICPA members received his answer at their annual conference, from executive director Statewide planning and services Stephen Baxter, who has been in discussions with Mr Collier.

"Some years ago the grant ceased," Mr Baxter said.

"The good news is, with the support of the government... which has acknowledged the issues; the grant is back."

ICPA president Liz Sudlow said the association was delighted.

"I have had a lot of positive feedback about having Mr Baxter speak at the conference," Ms Sudlow said.

"He has an extensive knowledge and understanding of the issues associated with the education of rural and remote students.

"He is the person best placed from the department to speak about the issues and members were happy he could answer our questions."

Mr Collier's spokesperson confirmed a $10,000 grant has been approved.

ICPA State council delegate Justine Reudavey said members also welcomed the State Government's response to another key concern, when it announced in November that all students attending high school in Geraldton could board at the Geraldton Residential College (GRC).

"I am sure this has taken a lot of pressure off some families who were starting to wonder where they were going to send their children, if they chose a private education in Geraldton," Ms Reudavey said.

"Well done to the team at the Mid West branch, which has been relentless in the pursuit of this issue."

Mid West branch delegate Emma Foulkes-Taylor said after almost two years of lobbying it was good that non-government students will be permitted to use the college this year, although the decision had come too late for some families.

"Because of that (late decision) the GRC is half empty and the region has missed out on the opportunity to have students staying and studying in Geraldton schools," Ms Foulkes-Taylor said.

"Boarding families simply cannot leave the decision of where to send their children to school until the last minute."

WA State Council delegate Carol Ford said the motion to increase the Boarding Away From Home Allowance (BAHA) continued to be on the agenda, as it had not been increased since 2010.

"The budget announcement that residential fees would be increased by 7.5 per cent, while the BAHA would not, was shocking news," Ms Ford said.

"The gap between the cost of boarding and the allowance recouped is widening dramatically, so not only do we require an increase to BAHA, but a substantial one."

Ms Ford said with the compulsory movement of Year 7 students from primary to high school, qualifying children could access Assistance for Isolated Children funds.

Ms Sudlow said Year 7 students who transitioned into high schools this year has been successful and well received in most regional communities.

"The transition process by the department has been handled well," she said.

"The fact that the government has allowed some families from rural areas to an exemption from sending their Year 7 children away, so that a Year 7 class remains in the primary school in 2015 until 2017, was a decision we welcomed."

While most schools and communities where unaffected, the Lakes branch said it had felt repercussions from the transition process.

Some teachers, students and families had left towns, which hurt sports teams and cause a loss of community.

ICPA membership numbers have fallen slightly in some branches over the past year, which Ms Sudlow said was due to fatigue among members in some regional communities.

"In many country areas, it seems to be the same faces who are involved in all the various volunteer, community and sporting organisations," Ms Sudlow said.

This affected the ICPA membership.

Ms Sudlow said ICPA WA and all its members were working to reinvigorate the branches and look at ways to help boost membership across the State.

"We are delighted to have a full State Council for the first time in many years, so we can continue to promote the organisation," Ms Sudlow said.

"We are looking to broaden the Kalannie branch to the Central Wheatbelt, it an attempt to increase membership in that area.

"We have had expressions of interest from families from Williams about the prospect of starting a branch in that region, so that's very exciting news."

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