Schools dropped in the deep end

Member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath has again raised concerns over the Andrews Labor Government’s mandatory 50 metre swimming program for primary schools.

The program has been introduced from this year with no additional funding.

Ms Bath asked for some details about the scheme in parliament last year.

“A question being asked in country Victoria is: Do we have the pool facilities to accommodate all these primary schools meeting this obligation?” Ms Bath asked in parliament in December.

The government responded in the first sitting week for 2017.

“The response in parliament has ignored the key aspect of my question – around how this is to be funded,” Ms Bath said.

“An extra mandatory curriculum item has been added but there is no additional funding.”

“Many principals and office managers I have spoken with have significant concerns around having the capacity and funds to meet the mandatory obligations imposed by the Andrews Labor Government, that expects all primary school children to be proficient in swimming 50 metres by the time they complete Year 6.”

“Rural school principals across Victoria are saying this could be an additional cost impost of up to $60,000 which must be borne by the school.”

“Since the government made its announcement in November, there has been no further directive or information to schools regarding the swimming program. This is policy via media release, with no substance.”

“There needs to be further consideration of this issue by the government. The Minister [Education Minister James Merlino] needs to provide specific funding for regional and remote schools for this measure.”

One of the many schools across Eastern Victoria impacted by the announcement is Traralgon South Primary School. Its nearest pool is 25 kilometres away.

The school’s principal, Adam Downes, is one of those expressing frustration over the program.

“We could spend one day a week for the entire year trying to get the kids to swim and they might still never get there,” Mr Downes said.

“That’s nearly a term of wasted learning that is going to impact somewhere.”

“I agree with trying to get the kids to swim but we also need to see some funding,” Mr Downes concluded.