By Colin MacGillivray
Politicians have called for answers after Colmont School went into administration last week.
Federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell described the school’s closure as ‘extremely concerning’ and called on administrators to make the causes of its insolvency public.
He criticised the school’s handling of the closure, with many parents left in the dark until Wednesday night or Thursday morning.
“Obviously our first concern is the welfare of the students, but there are a lot of questions that need to be answered,” he said.
“Parents, rightly, should be concerned about what’s happened and will be asking what the hell is going on. We need to know what has been happening behind the scenes. That question has got to be raised with the administrators.
“I think first and foremost the administrators have a duty to be clear with parents about what is happening, keep them updated and answer their questions.”
Member for Euroa Steph Ryan said the closure came as a shock and called on the State Government to provide support.
“I have written to the Education Minister to urge the Victorian Government to do all it can to support students and families in this trying time as they face difficult decisions in the days ahead,” she said.
“The Andrews Government must not allow an ideological opposition to private schools get in the way of doing what is best for students and families who are the victims of this distressing situation.”
Ms Ryan said Colmont’s closure would put a spotlight on State Government funding for schools in the region, with many students expected to join nearby schools.
“Broadford Secondary College is already close to capacity and prospective students for next year are being turned away,” she said.
“Colmont’s closure means the Victorian Government needs to urgently commit the funds needed to improve Broadford’s facilities and provide for growth.
“Despite the region’s rapid population growth, the Andrews Government has also shown no interest in progressing with a public secondary school for Kilmore.
“The reality is that the most recent Victorian budget failed to deliver a cent to Kilmore and Broadford despite their exponential growth and place within a crucial growth corridor.”
Premier Daniel Andrews pledged support for Colmont on Thursday but said the State Government’s options were limited because it was a private school.
Administrator Ian Grant of Vince and Associates said as of Thursday afternoon the government had not contacted him to arrange support.
He said the school received funding from the state and federal governments but was turned down by both when it requested additional money earlier this year.
“The school was running out of funds and sought additional funding from the commonwealth and state governments, as well as finance from banking institutions and private lending,” he said.
“As additional government funding and finance was not forthcoming, the board of directors could not continue because the school was insolvent, or likely to become insolvent.”
A Department of Education and Training, DET, spokesperson said the State Government funded more than 1550 government schools and was a minor funder of non-government schools.
He said the Federal Government provided most non-government school funding.
The Review understands Colmont received about $14,000 per student in federal government funding in 2020, with other secondary schools in the region including Catholic school Assumption College receiving $11,000 and government school Wallan Secondary College about $3000 per student.
Mr Mitchell agreed the State Government needed to review education provision in the region.
“Ultimately, the priority now is getting students back into education. I think there is a need for the Victorian Government to do a demography check and see if we’re serviced with enough schools for students in the region and what the education needs are,” he said.
In a statement, State Member for Northern Victoria Jaclyn Symes said every Victorian child had the right to enrol at a designated local government school, or another government school of their choice provided it had the space to accommodate them.
“The announcement of the Colmont School being placed in administration is disappointing and the impact on our community it upsetting, I feel for the staff, students, families and our broader Kilmore community,” she said.