‘We took it too far’: Western Australia reverses funding cuts in education

Western Australia premier Mark McGowan

The premier of Western Australia, Mark McGowan, has abandoned a plan to close the School of the Air and reversed other education funding cuts after a campaign led by the National party, which said the proposal was unfair to regional areas.

McGowan announced the reversal on Thursday, saying: “upon reflection we realise we took it too far when it comes to education services and we now need to get the balance right.”

The move reverses the funding cuts to the School of the Air, the gifted and talented program, and Northam College, which provides accommodation to out-of-town students at the wheat-belt town.

It also means planned teacher training will not be put on hold.

McGowan said the revised cuts struck a better balance between budget repair and supporting the community.

“We won’t take our eye off the ball when it comes to the finances, but we won’t compromise the quality of education in the process,” he said.

The education minister, Sue Ellery, said the original funding decision was “rushed”.

“Finding savings in education is extremely difficult and in an effort to help fix the finances, we made a rushed decision that left many people feeling anxious and distressed,” she said.

“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.”

The state’s treasurer, Ben Wyatt, previously blamed the proposed $64m in cuts on the need to control the state budget, which is forecast to reach a net debt level of $43bn by 2020.

The proposed cuts were announced at the end of the 2017 school year, and included 170 job losses.

The revised cuts are worth $41m and include the closure of Moora residential college and Tuart College, which provides bridging courses for university hopefuls, as well as loss of funding to Landsdale farm school and Canning College.

The WA Nationals leader, Mia Davies, congratulated parents from regional WA who pushed the “regional students matter” campaign for the win.