Published: 06 February 2024

The start of a new school year is eagerly anticipated by many, but not all. Children learn in different ways therefore our educational systems must be adaptable and flexible. Access to, and engagement with education has the power to be life-changing and all students need to feel safe, supported and welcome in their learning environment. It can be a path out of poverty, breaking cycles of intergenerational disadvantage and unemployment. Education empowers children and young people to make informed decisions and shape the future.

For these benefits to be realised, high rates of attendance at school are critical. Since COVID-19 many schools have experienced reduced attendance rates. As parents and carers, we need to ensure children in our care make the most of these opportunities to succeed and thrive through regular attendance. High attendance also means children needing additional assistance can be identified and assisted earlier.

The government must ensure all schools are well resourced to provide both quality teaching and contemporary learning spaces. Many schools in this region require major capital works to achieve this. Wynyard High School and Hellyer College are just two examples of schools that need, and deserve, significant works to upgrade the learning spaces for students. Others like Montello Primary School have finally received funding, but the funds are inadequate to achieve what is really needed. Properly designed learning facilities enhance the learning experience, promote lifelong learning, collaboration and creativity and provide a welcoming environment for students and staff.

One contemporary learning space providing the opportunity for local students, young and not so young, to undertake university education locally, is the UTAS Cradle Coast Campus. This is an important asset for our region offering many opportunities. Currently nursing students can complete their degree in Burnie. From 2025, medical students will be able to complete their entire degree in Burnie, not only the last two years at the Rural Clinical School. There are many other opportunities in health, science, humanities and other fields to educate, grow and retain the workforce we need. I hope to see these expanded to include engineering to support our energy and advanced manufacturing sectors and our youth.

As a community we all need to value education, support and encourage our students to attend school regularly. Individuals, families and communities will be the beneficiaries.

The Advocate, Monday 5 February 2024

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