‘We took it too far’: WA premier applauded for reversing education cuts

By Stephen Easton

Friday January 12, 2018

Apple and stack of books

The Western Australian government has reconsidered some of its cost-cutting measures in the education portfolio in response to a passionate outcry, and been applauded for doing so.

The state government was planning to make $64 million in savings through measures that would have seen its radio-based Schools of the Air and programs for gifted and talented students defunded, a freeze on advanced Level 3 training for teachers, and the closure of accommodation at a residential college.

A program for Aboriginal high school students called Follow the Dream has also escaped the axe, Premier Mark McGowan announced yesterday, but he will continue with $41 million worth of savings measures.

The mayor of the City of South Perth was quick to applaud the decision, and the state public sector union has also welcomed the government’s change of heart although it still wants to see more funding left in the portfolio.

McGowan said the aim was to spread budget cuts across the various sectors of the community that receive the benefits of state funding.

“Education is pulling its weight, but upon reflection we realise we took it too far when it comes to education services and we now need to get the balance right,” he said in a statement.

Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery said the decision was “rushed” and acknowledged it had “left many people feeling anxious and distressed” but added that savings had to be found.

“We’ve listened to the concerns raised and took time to further analyse the impact of the savings measures announced both from a financial and education perspective,” Ellery said.

The CPSU/CSA state secretary Toni Walkington called on the fairly new government, which had spent many long years in opposition, to adjust its approach to engaging with community stakeholders.

“The anxiety and effort triggered by these cuts and their impact could easily have been avoided by engaging collaboratively with parents, staff and other stakeholders,” said Walkington.

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