BENDIGO public school students are still less likely than the Victorian average to complete senior secondary school more than a decade on from the plan that was supposed to change it all.
The original Bendigo Education Plan released in 2005 merged high schools to create four junior colleges for years seven to 10, having identified students were starting to fall through the gaps in education.
The plan was to lift retention and attendance rates, broaden subject choices, challenge students and improve their engagement, and drive a change to “highly effective teaching practice”.
A KPMG audit of the original plan said there was angst among teachers and parents that went with the wholesale restructure of junior colleges which included the closure and merger of some schools and the construction of new infrastructure at all.
With the building finished, “and with reduced resources to support the BEP from Department of Education and Training’s Bendigo office, schools focussed more on embedding their learning and teaching approaches than on pursuing cross-school collaborative benefits”.
The schools went their own ways, and competition between campuses later exacerbated an unequal number of students flowing into colleges which is also a challenge for the future, the new plan says.
The new plan effectively takes up, again, the work of the original version.
Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan said the new BEP was about “lifting education outcomes across the region so all Bendigo students have access to a great education no matter which school they attend”.
“We know that the best education systems in the world are highly networked and this plan outlines how schools can collaborate to powerfully lift the performance and achievements of all students,” she said.
The BEP 2018-2028 calls for a review every two years so momentum isn’t lost.
But Nationals candidate Gaelle Broad said she wanted to see broader change in local education.
“We cannot afford to spend the next 10 years planning,” Ms Broad said.
“Our education sector needs a clear and concise education plan for Bendigo that addresses continued population growth.
“Private schools are expanding, but we still only have one public school in Bendigo offering years 11 and 12.
“Bendigo’s primary and secondary school enrolment numbers are swelling, and we’re still trying to push them through the same small funnel.
“A few years ago the focus was on reducing class sizes to improve education standards, now we‘re building mega schools and mega classrooms.”
Liberals candidate Ian Ellis said it was a shame achievement and retention outcomes had been allowed to fall below expected levels but he questioned why Bendigo needed an individual plan.