Melbourne University professor John Hattie says more needs to be done than "trying" to fix education in Shepparton, and now is the perfect opportunity.
The director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute was in Shepparton on Wednesday night hosting a presentation about educational outcomes through an evaluation plan.
Prof Hattie painted a clear picture to the audience as he compared the four Shepparton schools to similar schools in rural Victoria and Australia.
“It has not been a good picture,” he said.
Prior to the presentation, Prof Hattie said he was fully aware of the concerns parents have regarding the Shepparton Education Plan, as he has been contacted by Shepparton parents.
“Besides uniforms and transport, parents are worried about the transition plan; going to different schools,” he said.
“There is a fear of the unknown. Many are quite happy with the comfort their kids are in at the moment and don't want that changed.
“I understand all of those reasons.Many parents have legitimate complaints.
“But is the Shepparton community prepared to build an evaluation plan now, and involve the parents, kids and teachers, showing this opportunity is going to and will make the difference?
“Are the parents prepared to make the evaluation plan part of the underpinning part of where they move over the next five years?
“Kids can be beneficiaries, and let me be blunt: if those kids aren't beneficiaries something is wrong."
Prof Hattie said the data showed education standards in the city must be addressed quickly and he believes the Shepparton Education Plan will do that.
“Forty per cent of kids in Shepparton finish high school — that's half the national average and indefensible. So double the rate of kids who finish high school,” Prof Hattie said.
“By doing that, the high school must make itself an inviting place for kids to attend.
“The pressure is also on the educators to get it right. It's up to the press and parents to keep the educators' feet to the fire all the time.
“The promising thing about a school of 3000 is that you can offer a lot more challenging and appropriate subjects.”
Prof Hattie said he was excited by the Shepparton Education Plan.
“Everyone's had a million answers for the Shepparton education issues and this is the one time you have the most massive opportunity to truly make a difference in the lives of kids,” he said.
“There's still lots of work that needs to be done.
“What Shepparton is doing is not brand new. It has worked in other places under certain conditions and it's been a stunning success.
“The conditions are that the focus has to be on the impacts of the teachers and school.
“It has to be on steady criteria that every kid makes it to year 12, which means our current system where we sort them out too early is not going to be part of the picture.
“This system can keep kids in school. If you look at the statistic in Victoria, 97 per cent of adults in prison didn't finish high school — ouch, that's a pretty dramatic figure.
“Yes, we can get it wrong so badly that if it's more of the same then this will be a missed opportunity.”
The presentation was organised by the Victorian Department of Education and Training and Melbourne University.