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Bus fees close Central Victorian Catholic school

A major Catholic secondary school in regional Victoria will close next month because a fall in enrolments means the school is unable to pay its share of the cost of school buses.

McAuley College had 77 students this year, but with only 59 enrolments for next year.

The school is unusual in that it is not located in a major town, but at remote Dooboobetic, between the centres of Charlton, Donald and St Arnaud, which individually are not large enough to support their own Catholic secondary schools. But the remoteness makes the school almost entirely dependent upon buses.

Announcing the 17 December closure, principal Sue Gunn blamed the State Government for refusing to take responsibility for the school's bus costs.

The government contributed $67,550 of the $118,500 cost of running the service this year. Families have had to find between $250 and $350 per student to make up the balance. Ms Gunn said this cost had affected enrolments.

"If the school was in a town, the students would travel on government buses, but that's not an option here," Ms Gunn said yesterday. "What we're asking for is an extra $50,000 a year so we wouldn't have to hit the parents for the $350 per student."

"A reduction in overall costs because of increased government support would have been a real incentive for parents to enrol their students at McAuley."

Victorian Education Services Minister Jacinta Allan said the State Government had supported the school's bus services for the past 18 years through its conveyance allowance. She said new conveyance allowance rates introduced at the start of this year had increased funding for the school.

Ms Allan confirmed she was aware of the issue, but said "as I understand the situation, the Catholic Education Office has taken a decision that, due to declining enrolments, McAuley College is going to close."

"It's a decision the Victorian Government has no influence over because it's a catholic school, run by the Catholic Education Office."

Bus fees close school (Bendigo Advertiser 18/11/03)

McAuley College, Dooboobetic
Catholic Education Office, Ballarat | McAuley College, Dooboobetic
Co-payment for school travel unpopular, but still the lesser of two evils (Sydney Morning Herald 17/11/03)

18 Nov 2003