Shepparton Education Plan’s future discussed

By Ashlea Witoslawski

The future of the Shepparton Education Plan was up for discussion last week, as individuals questioned the lack of financial support provided in the 2019-20 Victorian Budget.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed took to the Parliament floor last Wednesday to discuss the state government’s future commitment to the project.

The plan received $20.5million in the 2018-19 state budget and is currently under way, however, no funding was allocated in this year’s budget.

In Ms Sheed’s address, she said a further $100million was required to build a regional college, merging the four government secondary schools into one campus.

‘‘It is a transformational plan, and it will see all young people in the state education system leave school with a pathway and a vision for the future,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘But some constituents in my region are concerned that there was no further funding in this year’s budget and they are anxious to know that the progress of the plan will continue.

‘‘So, Premier, will you commit to funding the Shepparton Education Plan, and when can my constituents expect to see this commitment fulfilled?’’

Premier Daniel Andrews said although there was no funding allocation in their year’s budget, he said he was looking ‘‘forward to being able to make further announcements in future budgets’’.

‘‘It is a pretty bold plan, and it has not been universally supported all the way along, so to take that vision to the community is very, very important, and the community support for the project has been no small thing,’’ Mr Andrews said.

‘‘The member would understand, as I am sure her community would understand, that the first and foremost priority for the government in its first budget after the election was to make a start and deliver on all of our election commitments.

‘‘Just like last term, we will go beyond those election commitments, and that will include standing with students and families and the broader community of the Shepparton electorate.’’

In response to Ms Sheed’s efforts in Parliament, The Nationals deputy leader Steph Ryan said this lack of financial commitment would add to the community’s unease in regards to the education plan.

‘‘Daniel Andrews had a golden opportunity to make amends and commit the full funding to the Shepparton school community, but instead he squibbed it,’’ Ms Ryan said.

‘‘There’s already uncertainty building about this merger and how it will impact resourcing, staffing, class sizes and more.’’

Ms Ryan said she feared Shepparton may incur a similar educational fate to that of Benalla College, which she claimed recently saw a 10 per cent cut to the school’s operating budget.

‘‘It is a massive red flag for Shepparton that Labor has put just $20million in the budget, and most of it far off in the forward estimates, for a project which is expected to cost more than $100million.

‘‘It worries me greatly that the Andrews Government and the local member have pushed a plan on the Shepparton community that has only a fraction of the funding required to see it through.’’