Press Conference - Rockhampton Grammar School
SUBJECTS: Commonwealth Scholarships Program, regional and rural boarding.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Anthony Chisholm, Assistant Minister for Education and Assistant Minister for Regional Development.
JOURNALIST: Tell us about this scholarship program the government is announcing today.
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: I’m here today to make an exciting announcement about the Commonwealth Regional Scholarship Program. This is something that was promised by the previous government, but we’ve honoured that commitment and are announcing and delivering on it today.
We know that for so many people across Australia that they don’t have local high school opportunities. And we know that sometimes the only opportunity they have is boarding school. And we want to ensure that as many people across Australia get access to the best possible schooling, and that involves sometimes sending kids to boarding school.
So, what we are announcing today is that we will support 50 places for students from families with low incomes that will be eligible for $20,000 a year to help with boarding. And there’ll be another 50 positions available for families on lower and middle income for $10,000 to assist with boarding school.
So, we want to ensure that everyone across Australia has the opportunity to get the best possible education. We understand that boarding facilities play an important role in that. And that’s why the federal government is particularly pleased to make this announcement today and support those families.
This will be $10,000 and $20,000 a year for six years, so for the entire period of the secondary education. And that was based on feedback from groups that support for the entire high school period was the appropriate and best way for those students to flourish.
JOURNALIST: Obviously the boarding experience is quite expensive. A lot of the schools that offer it are the independent private Catholics that already have that additional fee, and then the boarding is that additional fee. So, this is that way of easing that pressure?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Yeah, we understand that cost of living is a real challenge for so many people across the country, and we want to ensure that there is opportunity for students from those really remote regional rural locations to get access to the best possible education. Talking to the boarding students here today, I get a sense that Rockhampton Grammar is well placed to offer that opportunity. They’re already doing a significant job, and I think that’s why these Commonwealth-supported scholarships will add to the ability of many students across the country to get that same valuable education.
JOURNALIST: There is only 100 places across the country, I don’t want to discount that; having been a boarder myself, I know how expensive that is. But just a hundred places, obviously quite a lot more students. Is it, you know, depending on the success of the program, extra places something the government would look to increase?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: Absolutely. We know that there’s significant need out there particularly given the cost of living challenges many people face. So, this is a pilot program. We will review it to ensure that it’s successful. But we’ll also take on board any feedback to ensure that if there are further rounds announced that they do it in the most effective way.
JOURNALIST: I know the media release said that more details will be announced, how to apply and things like that, but for parents that are going to see this tonight, what do they need to know about it? What details can you give us about the rollout?
ANTHONY CHISHOLM: So, it will be available from next year and it will be for those on lower incomes it will be $20,000 a year support. For lower to middle incomes, it will be $10,000 support. As we’ve said in the announcement, more details and guidelines will be provided. And we’ll also look to partner with other organisations that have already a track record in delivering some of these programs as well. So please stay tuned, stay in touch with those organisations and more information will be provided in the coming months.
I think the headmaster is happy to say a few words as well.
JOURNALIST: My understanding is you’ll also speak on behalf of the Independent Schools Association Queensland? A little bit of both?
PHILLIP MOULDS: A bit of both.
PHILLIP MOULDS: So, Philip Moulds, Headmaster of the Rockhampton Grammar School.
JOURNALIST: What does boarding look like here at Rocky grammar? How many students, that sort of thing?
PHILLIP MOULDS: Boarding has a central place at Rockhampton Grammar School. So, we talk about ourselves being a boarding school rather than a school with boarders. It’s a special place where students come and really have a second family, where they’re provided with care and support and where we want them to achieve the best they can based upon their own individual abilities and capacities.
JOURNALIST: How far away do you have students coming to school? Because obviously, like, we’ve got a lot of farmers in the community 4 hours out and things like that.
PHILLIP MOULDS: So, we’ve got 330 boarders at the school currently, and most of them are from out west. So, we’ve got students who will travel over 2,000 kilometres to attend school, and it is a really big regional and remote school catchment that the school draws from.
JOURNALIST: Obviously boarding fees – and understandably – are expensive on top of that additional education. What sort of a difference do you think it will be for parents to now have a little bit more of an option for their children?
PHILLIP MOULDS: The scholarship program that’s been announced today will provide immense access and opportunity for the students that access it to attend boarding schools throughout the country. Access and opportunity I think are really, really important for all of our students going forward so they can achieve the best quality education and so they’ve got lots of places to go and things to choose from into the future, whether that be at university, whether that be VET training or whether that be out in the workforce.
JOURNALIST: And boarding school, it isn’t just, you know, a roof over their heads at night as well. You do get those additional – you know, you get tutors to help with homework, you get help and access with extracurricular and things like that. Can you talk us through, I guess, some of the other programs that are offered as a boarder?
PHILLIP MOULDS: So, when you’re a boarder not only do you attend school at the schools, but the school is your home. So, there’s opportunities in terms of getting tutorials and getting assistance with your homework. You know, if a student goes home at night, they’ve got parents to do that sort of that. The school does that. We run activities programs because students actively engaged in a variety of things help them with their social connections and also helps them develop a sense of identity and belonging at the school. Importantly, service learning is an important part of being a boarder because we want our students to not only do the best they can for themselves, but also to contribute and be part of the community as well.
JOURNALIST: I’m guessing your support comes part under your principal hat but also part under your association hat, I guess, understanding just, yeah, how many students across the state and across the country do need access to boarding schools like this.
PHILLIP MOULDS: Boarding schools play a very important role in education across Australia. So, anything that we can do to help access quality education for all the students within Australia is very important. So, this program is one of those opportunities that students can get to attend schools that, quite frankly, they are not able to attend given where they live.
WILLIAM PATRICK (STUDENT): William Patrick.
JOURNALIST: And just spelt how it sounds?
WILLIAM PATRICK: Yeah.
JOURNALIST: And what year are you in now?
WILLIAM PATRICK: Currently last year, year 12. Yeah.
JOURNALIST: Good luck.
WILLIAM PATRICK: Thank you.
JOURNALIST: I say that lovingly and sarcastically. First of all, where have you come from, why are you boarding? Tell us about that.
WILLIAM PATRICK: Well, I come from a place an hour and a half out from here called Gladstone, specifically Tannum Sands. And I’ve come here primarily for the opportunities provided here, whether that be educational and the opportunities that come with that, just like the tutoring that comes after school, but also the sporting side. I value my sport as well. Like, all the sports that they offer here and like all the extracurricular activities associated with sport like training and like the awesome gym that they offer here. So, all the opportunities that are made with that.
But also, I also found that the memories that are made, like, I found like you’re living with a bunch of people that are your age and, like, you form these relationships that, like, almost parallel like a brother and sister relationship. And seeing those relationships and building those relationships is a key aspect of boarding that I very much enjoy, and I think many other people would enjoy as well.
JOURNALIST: I think it was you I overheard saying before that you’ve only just been boarding for your last two years. How have you found that, obviously being, you know, a bit of a way from home, moving into this environment?
WILLIAM PATRICK: Yes, very good question. Yeah, so the transition from home to boarding was, as I said, it’s very hard moving away from family. But whatever you miss in family relationships it is very much gained up in the bonds you make through the brothers or sisters that are here with you in your boarding family. And obviously there’s boarding staff and teachers acting as your parents, and they make you feel very loved and very welcome in this awesome home.
JOURNALIST: I guess as well moving out at a bit of a younger age into a bit of a different environment, you know, you’ll probably – who knows – moved plenty of time in your life, house mates, partners, things like that. I guess it gives you that little bit of an earlier – and a different type of real-life education, I guess?
WILLIAM PATRICK: Yeah. I was talking to one of my uncles about it just the other weekend, how it was like the whole idea of boarding is it’s a good transition into adulthood, like, into that independent world where you’re, like, doing things on your own and, like, obviously there’s support, but it’s, like, it’s a very good transition of, like, getting into your own routines, not having a parent telling you what to do. And I’ve found it’s like helped me very much, like, going into uni next year. It’s, like, I’ve learned to, like, get into these habits of, like, when I need to eat, when I need to study and when I need to do things to reach the goals that I want to achieve.
JOURNALIST: Great, thank you. That’s awesome.