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Catholic Schools to close as a result of Gonski 2.0

Posted on 31 October 2017

Above: Holy Eucharist Primary principal Terry Gardiner. Photo: Luis Enrique Ascui

Victoria's Catholic education body is warning of school closures under the Turnbull government's Gonski 2.0 funding model, with two Melbourne schools to shut this year.

Holy Eucharist Primary School in Malvern East and Mother of God Primary School in Ivanhoe East have told parents that they will be closing and amalgamating with neighbouring schools.

Catholic Education Melbourne executive director Stephen Elder said the closures were a ''warning of things to come'' under the government's funding changes. ''As matters stand there is a very real threat of future closures and the dislocation that will bring,'' he said.

Mr Elder said the two small schools had received financial support from the broader Catholic school system but this would be difficult to maintain under Gonski 2.0. Enrolments have slumped at both schools 106 students attended the Mother of God School in 2016. Just 25 students attend the Holy Eucharist Primary School.

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham hit back, saying the Catholic sector could still determine how it distributed funding.

He said funding for the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria would increase by $86.6 million next year and $1.1 billion over the next decade.

''It is unfortunate if some want to play politics with school closures despite increasing levels of funding,'' Mr Birmingham said.

''Given CEVC funding is projected to increase by $86.6 million next year the question many will ask in response to stories like this is 'where is the money going'?'' Terry Gardiner became the principal of Holy Eucharist earlier this year and had hoped to reverse its dwindling enrolments. He said parents were incredibly upset about the school's closure.

''It's an amazing community,'' he said. ''Small schools can offer great opportunities ... students get close attention and parents love that everyone knows each other.''

The billboard outside the Malvern East school now reads: ''Holy Eucharist Primary School 1930 2017. Thanks for the memories.''

On the other side of town, Father Bill Edebohls from Ivanhoe Parish believes that federal funding changes and sluggish enrolment growth led to the closure of the Mother of God School.

''As a smaller school, Mother of God has required significant financial subsidy from the wider Catholic Education system and under the recent changes to school funding enacted by the Turnbull government, it will be extremely difficult to maintain the levels of assistance Mother of God needs,'' Father Edebohls said in a statement posted on the Parish's website.

''Instead, the burden would have been passed on to parents in the form of significantly higher fees together with a debt burden that would be unsustainable.''

Staff will lose their jobs at both schools, and most students will move to neighbouring Catholic schools in the parishes.

Catholic Education Melbourne says that it faces ''unprecedented measures'' that will dictate how much money its schools receive.

These measures includes the removal of the ''system-weighted average'', which bases funding for systemic schools on the average socio-economic status of all schools in the system.

''[Mr Birmingham] has replaced it with a focus on individual schools that will make it harder to keep small schools or others with special demands viable while holding down fees,'' Mr Elder said.

The Catholic sector is hoping a review of the socio-economic status model will fix some of these issues. The system-weighted average will remain in place for 2018 while the review takes place.

A spokesman for the Andrews government said the funding changes were bad for schools across all sectors.

''Make no mistake, this is a drastic cut to what schools both government and non-government should be receiving.''

From: the Age, 30 Oct, 2017

by Henrietta Cook

Tags: Government Funding

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