FAIR GO: Drop-out rate too high at our schools
ONE in five Bundaberg Year 10 public school students appears to be failing to graduate from Year 12.
A special ARM Newsdesk analysis of Department of Education figures reveals a huge gap in school completion rates between Bundaberg students and those who live in Brisbane.
The research found that 19.4% of the region's 2013 Year 10 students did not make it into the 2015 Year 12 cohort.
This compares to just over 2% in schools in the Brisbane City Council catchment.
It must be noted the department does not track individual student progress so the statistics do not account for things such as teenagers leaving our region and continuing their studies elsewhere.
The Social Health Atlas of Australia shows that at the last Census just 75.3% of Bundaberg's 16-year-olds were studying full-time compared to 85.8% in Brisbane schools.
ARM, publisher of the NewsMail and 11 other daily newspapers, wants our leaders to stop short-changing our region.
We are calling on the Federal Government to increase funding for our education, health and infrastructure systems so every aspect of our lives can be on par with metropolitan Australia.
A director of the Australian Secondary Principals' Association, Andrew Pierpoint, backed our call, saying closing the gap could be as simple as giving every public school in our region one extra teacher and two support staff - that would see student retention rates increase significantly.
"It doesn't have to be much money - it just has to be targeted," Mr Pierpoint said.
It's about retaining kids in school, it's about giving them correct pathways post-school and it's about attracting and keeping good teachers.
Grattan Institute school education program director Peter Goss said until governments ensured every school had the money it needed to meet each child's individual needs, the chasm would never close.
"Funding matters to our regional schools because the welfare of our kids is vital, but welfare is not the core job of our teachers," he said.
"The core job of teachers is to focus on teaching and learning.
"To maximize how much the kids are learning there needs to be (extra) staff who support kids who have challenges."
Queensland Education Minister Kate Jones urged the Federal Government to keep regional students in mind when delivering its coming budget.
"Our students deserve nothing less," she said.
Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said his government was committed to giving regional public schools more cash.
"Our funding commitment to Queensland regional and rural schools is set to increase by $279.5 million or 33% from 2014 to 2017 and will keep growing thereafter," Senator Birmingham said.
NORTH HIGH: Year 12 students say graduating creates opportunity
IT'S always been the plan to finished Year 12 for Angus Ethell, Georgia Prichard and Jacob Watson.
The North Bundaberg State High School school captains and school treasurer, who are in their final year of school, said they believed graduating opened them up to many different opportunities.
"It was always in my plan to finish school and graduate Year 12. I plan to do a Bachelor of Visual Arts and then move into the special effects world," Angus said.
"I have always wanted to finish grade 12 and go on to uni. I think your Year 12 studies are important as it makes it easier to get a job," Georgia said.
Jacob lived in the Northern Territory when he was younger and said moving to Queensland made him realise the importance of completing school.
"I was looking into doing a trade or something like that. When I moved to Queensland, opportunities opened up for me," he said.
"I decided that I wanted to graduate and do my QCE, which wasn't an option in the territory and, from there, look at university which I hadn't ever considered before.
"Year 12 is important because it gives you more options. I can always go and do a trade but if I became a mechanic initially, without having the opportunities that come with completing Year 12, it would be a lot harder for me to then go on to do engineering."
Senior school principal Robyn Kent said North Bundaberg State High worked hard in many ways to give students that added push with their education.
"We try to offer a broad range of subjects and extra-curricular activities for our university and non-university driven students," she said.
"We started a My Big Picture Plan last year which aims at teaching our students to have some aspiration and goals and to forge a pathway to success that they can follow when school ends."