Wee Waa High School kids speak out
Wee Waa High School
Legislative Council – 12 May 2021
The Hon. Mark Banasiak
I speak once again about Wee Waa High School. I received a letter from year 12 students at the school and the content is devastating. The students have shown courage and resilience in reaching out to me at a time when they should be focused on much bigger things. By writing the letter, they have shown that they continue to endure something that the Department of Education is trying to stamp out and ignore. I commend the students. As the letter is lengthy I will not read it directly onto the record, although I would like to. It was written with a maturity that belies the age of the students. Last week the Minister had very little of substance to say in answer to my questions and the questions of the Opposition in relation to Wee Waa High School. However, she dared to tell members that we had the story wrong and that there was a lot of misinformation circulating around the issue.
The Minister also dared to tell members that student outcomes were the Government's main priority and that the community was being consulted regularly. What I have read in my office this week puts those comments to shame. Last week the Minister stated that the Government had taken steps to remove students and staff from the Wee Waa High School site and had provided facilities at the nearby Wee Waa Public School to ensure not only their safety and wellbeing, which is of critical importance, but also their continuity of learning. Here is the students' version of events:
Over the past six months, us senior students have been tossed around the town to various locations; including a business office space in the main street of town for all the world to see. At one point, we were literally eating our recess in the gutter. Half of the time we would wake up in the morning not knowing if we were working from home that day, down the main street, or in a semi useable classroom. As of right now the entire senior student body is crammed into the school's demountable library; that's at least 4 classes running at the same time. It is noisy, its uncomfortable, its unproductive, distracting, and it makes it extremely hard to focus on our studies. I know that most of us find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and find the motivation to learn.
In another statement the Minister said:
We need to make sure we listen to that school community and work closely with them as we manage through a very complex issue.
Here, again, is the students' version:
The communication between the department of education and the school and wider community, including us students, is unfortunately all but non-existent. Usually, the majority of our year is enthusiastic and excited to come to school, yet it has come to the point where we quite literally do not want to be there anymore. It is too overwhelming.
I hope the Minister is listening. Let us listen to another paragraph from the letter:
We understand that this whole situation is higher than our school deputy and principal, it is not their fault that the higher departments haven't stepped up to the plate. They say they're working to reach a solution, but from what we have seen, not much is being worked to.
The students go on to say they feel abandoned. They are receiving notifications about their education through Facebook messages just hours before they are due to attend classes. In response to being told they could not bring anything to school, the kids wrote:
Our hats and temporary bags had to be left outside on the ground, and here's the real kicker: it rained that day. Everything got saturated.
This is a disgrace and I have read only half of their heartbreaking letter. If any member wishes to see the letter, I will happily make it available.