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The Age

Cuts could continue, education protesters told

Date: 10/09/1993
Words: 409
          Publication: The Age
Page: 5
The campaign of community opposition to education cuts could continue well into next year, 4500 protesting parents, students and teachers were told yesterday.

The warning came as representatives from hundreds of metropolitan and country schools converged on the Directorate of Education offices in Collins Street for a ``Save Our Schools" rally.

Collins Street was blocked and traffic was diverted away from the Rialto building during the hour-long protest.

The rally coincided with the deadline for 249 submissions to the Education Minister, Mr Hayward, on how to achieve fewer, larger schools offering more curriculum choices.

Rally organisers said the turnout was amazing.

A spokesman for the minister refused to comment on the turnout, but said the minister was aware of the community's concern.

He said the minister was ``aware of the concerns in the community and especially the rural community about the reforms we are undertaking.

They are being designed to ensure that educational outcomes for students can be improved.

The Victorian Council of School Organisations, which was one of four groups organising the protest, said thousands of parents had heeded their call to withdraw their children from schools as a protest against $145 million cuts to education.

Figures supplied by council's president, Ms Jeanette Wilson, indicate that at least 10 rural schools had no children at school yesterday, and up to 20 rural schools had more than 50 per cent of students absent. In the Sunraysia-Mallee region, 92per cent of students were withdrawn from 20 schools, Ms Wilson said.

Six East Gippsland schools reported having no students.

The president of the Victorian Federation of State School Parents Clubs, Ms Jeanne Chippett, said the community opposition would not end with the rally.

An activist at Richmond Secondary College, Ms Elvie Sievers, said her school's 10-month campaign of defiance would provide inspiration to other schools throughout the state.

``The good news is our schools belong to us and will be there long after this mob is history," she said.

The Federated Teachers Union of Victoria and the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association expressed satisfaction with the turn-out and said it sent a clear message to Mr Hayward.

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