Caught between Federal Budget disappointment and the desire to celebrate Public Education Day, Michelle Barlow of Springwood Public School decided that it was time to do a stocktake of what really mattered.
As her school’s Federation Representative and a Federation Councillor for the Lower Blue Mountains, Michelle was always aware of the potential for an Abbott Government to deliver devastating cuts to education and health.
But even Michelle was shocked by the figures. In the Macquarie electorate, more than $31 million of Gonski funding has been slashed from public schools. At Springwood Public School, more than $477,000 has been cut from the Gonski deal; enough to pay for four teachers and some additional early intervention speech therapy.
Michelle was moved to ask her colleagues the question: “Think for a moment, what would the world be like without accessible, affordable, education for all?”
“As we enter Public Education Day for another year, it is time to stop and reflect on what it means to be part of this essential institution that offers universal education to all, no matter what your story is,” she wrote in a newsletter.
“Public education holds a special place in my heart. I was educated in the public system, and I believe I have gained a unique set of skills and experiences as a result. I believe it has instilled in me core values of tolerance and empathy, as well as a desire to achieve to the best of my ability, whilst cheering for those walking beside me.
“The choice to be a teacher in the public system was not an accidental one. It was the central reason and is the constant motivation driving my professional goals.
“We are very lucky to be part of such a wonderful team here at Springwood Public School, and part of a larger professional community of dedicated teachers who strive to put students first. The resonating themes of equity, diversity and access to quality education are at the forefront of all that we do.”
Michelle then asked her colleagues to respond to a second question: “What does public education mean to you?”
Their reflections reaffirmed that public education is in safe hands and that the Gonski campaign for fair funding will continue:
- “Public education gives all children a positive educational experience. A strong public education system equals a strong future for our country.”
- “A well balanced education where students learn to function effectively within society without bias.”
- “All students have access to the highest quality education regardless of wealth and background.”
- “Public education provides an inclusive learning environment.”
- “Opportunities for all children to gain experiences that last their whole lives.”
- “Public education prioritises … fundamentals for all students, from all backgrounds and cultures. The ‘fundamentals’ encompass the academic core learning areas, social opportunities, emotional support and a safe learning environment.”
- “Inclusive, quality education for all children irrespective of race, religion or economic status.”
- “All students having access to the highest quality education regardless of wealth or background.”
- “Public education means equal opportunity for all, and access to resources and learning experiences that cater for all.”
- “Equal access to education for all people regardless of socio-economic status, ability, age or any other factor. Providing opportunities for all.”
- “Giving students the opportunity to learn in an environment that caters for their needs.”
If you haven’t already done so, join the 125,000 plus people who have registered their support for the Gonski campaign by going to igiveagonski.com.au.