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Wait for rural school bus continues

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Families in the South East and other rural areas in South Australia are still waiting for the Minister for Education, John Gardiner, to deliver on his promise to ensure all children in rural areas have access to a school bus.

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In the lead up to the 2018 election, one of the Liberal Party’s commitments was to address the issue of access and equity for families in rural areas who choose a Catholic education for their children but are unable to access the school bus.

This followed concerns raised by parents in The Southern Cross in March 2018.

At the time, the Minister – then Opposition spokesman – said they were committed to supporting parental choice and equitable access to school buses.

“The reality is that we’ve had a review with no outcomes,” says Bruno Vieceli, assistant director, Catholic Education SA.

“Eighteen months on – we still have no change. Imagine not being able to access a guaranteed place on your school bus to ensure your child gets to school safely? This sound’s crazy but this is a reality for a number of families living in rural areas.

“Families were expecting action would be taken to resolve the situation following the 2018 election and are disappointed with this lack of response.”

Rachel Manninen, a parent of three primary school-age children living near Nangwarry, has chosen to send her children to the nearest Catholic school, Mary MacKillop Memorial School in Penola. Her children are deemed ineligible for bus transport as they bypass Nangwarry Primary School.

Currently children who bypass a local government school to attend another government or non-government school are deemed ineligible for bus transport.

“It just doesn’t seem fair,” said Mrs Manninen.

“Every child should be able to access a bus to school. Decisions should be based on need – not the type of school you choose to attend. In rural and remote areas – the need for transport is vital.

“From what I understand, there are a number of primary school students from Nangwarry who attend Penola Primary School, bypassing Nangwarry Primary School, who have been granted eligibility, yet my children haven’t. I don’t see why our children should be excluded based on our choice to put them in a Catholic school, especially given the government’s assurances that there would be equitable access to buses for all students.”

Minister Gardner told The Southern Cross that proposals contained in the School Bus Review were currently under consideration, and a response would be provided in coming months.

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