Victorian certificate of applied learning: funding

My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education and concerns the Baillieu government’s $50 million cut to funding for the Victorian certificate of applied learning (VCAL). The action I seek is that the minister visit Alkira Secondary College in my electorate to discuss this funding cut with the school principal. The families of my electorate are shocked by the Baillieu government’s $480 million cut to funding for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. They are appalled by the cut to coordination funding for VCAL, a program that has kept young people in school and lifted retention rates. They quite rightly do not believe this government when it says that its funding cuts will not have an effect on front-line services or lead to job losses. Our schools are telling us that VCAL funding cuts will do both of these things.

The Baillieu government’s poor excuse for cutting the coordination funding is that VCAL has been part of the school curriculum for a long time and that coordination funding is just start-up funding. If we assume that that is true — which it most certainly is not — what about new schools that do not yet offer VCAL? Alkira Secondary College is one of nine new schools built by the Bracks and Brumby Labor governments in my electorate. Being a new school, it does not yet have senior students. It will be a year 7-12 college by 2014. The school was planning to offer VCAL next year, but the funding cut has put these plans on hold. If this funding is indeed only start-up funding, as the Baillieu government is insisting, does it not make sense that new schools should receive it? The staff and teachers at the schools I have visited believe that the only way they can continue VCAL is by charging a fee, but I feel this would be unaffordable for many VCAL students and their families at Alkira Secondary College.

I would like to read a letter that the principal of the college has written to the minister and the Premier. It states:

As principal of Alkira Secondary College I am disappointed to be informed that the future of VCAL coordination is to lose its funding.
You see, gentlemen, we at Alkira Secondary College are like you in a new government; you have and are taking your time getting your head around policies and programs and every day for you is new.
We too at Alkira Secondary College are on the same journey; we are a brand new school, established in 2009 as the first PPP secondary college in the south-east.
For us every day is new and so our teachers are under tremendous pressure to develop curriculum and culture and set standards every day; and this will continue for the next four years.
At present we are at year 9 and next year we will be year 10 and so on.
We were hoping to employ a member of staff to develop our VCAL program for 2012 onwards. This is now on hold.
Both of you gentlemen must know the importance of VCAL in this geographical area. To deny our students the opportunity to enrol because we do not have the appropriate staff to develop a high-calibre program would be morally wrong and lead to the gulf getting wider.

The email continues:

I am not even sure that you will get to see my email; such is the arrogance perhaps of your ‘minders’. I hope I am wrong!
No matter what the outcome of my email, I am and will be looking at all avenues available to me to peruse this further for the sake of our families, community and students of Narre Warren/Cranbourne.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — Order! The member’s time has expired.