Rural and regional families who may have otherwise struggled with the costs, have embraced the opportunities on offer to provide an excellent boarding school education for their children. With experience in managing a range of Australian Government scholarship and education programs, The BUSY Group were contracted to administrate the Commonwealth Regional Scholarship Pilot Program (launched in 2023) with 100 families in regional, rural and remote communities receiving financial assistance for their children to attend boarding school in 2024.
Worth up to $20,000 per year, the program supports low-to-middle-income families who may otherwise not been able to commit to the full cost of boarding school fees and other associated costs.
Assistant Minister for Education, Senator Anthony Chisholm, said there had been significant demand for the scholarships with 353 applications for the national intake for the 2024 scholarships and already over 260 enquiries regarding potential opportunities for future scholarships.
“We’re absolutely committed to improving the educational outcomes for young people in regional, rural and remote communities,” Assistant Minister Chisholm said.
“There can be very few, if any, local secondary school options for families in regional and remote communities, while in very remote communities, boarding may be the only option.”
“These scholarships will reduce the financial burden on families and help ensure they can access boarding school as a viable and sustainable option to meet their children’s educational aspirations and interests.”
The pilot program provided up to 50 Tier 1 scholarships of $20,000, per student, per year, for up to six years to support low-income families and up to 50 Tier 2 scholarships of $10,000 to students from low-to-middle-income families experiencing financial hardship.
Heidi Shoecraft, a parent whose child was accepted into the Program, stated, “The Commonwealth Regional Scholarship program is going to be extremely helpful to us as it means we can provide our son with opportunities and education that we cannot offer where we live.
“We are grateful for the support that we have received and are excited to see our son have access to a large variety of curricular and extracurricular activities. This will help the growth and ability of him to choose an excellent career path with so many resources available.”
Briony and Peter Mills are also parents whose two children, Jock and Emma, were accepted into the Program.
Hearing about the scholarship program through their local school newsletter, Briony and Peter Mills jumped at the chance to offer the opportunity for their children to attend a boarding school. This is something they had been wanting to do for some time but were restricted with the financial costs.
“We’re in a rural area. One of the reasons we wanted our children to go away is for the opportunities. Our daughter, Emma, is mad on equestrian and the school she wanted to go to has an equestrian program. That enables her to pursue her passion. Our son is also a talented footballer and cricket player. We wanted them to exceed as far as they can go and the time it takes for them to travel places and limitations on what is available in the local area wasn’t allowing that.
“Emma takes her horse to school so recently her and her father packed up with the horse – it took them two days to get to the school.
“Last year Emma tried one term at the boarding school. She really loved it and already her marks improved. For example, her math results went from 60% at her previous school to 80% in just that one term. I attribute this to the travel to and from her local school which took three hours each day. Now she has two and a half hours back in the afternoon, let alone the morning.”
Both Jock and Emma are attending boarding schools that are selective public agriculture schools. This is providing Emma the opportunity to partake in the equestrian program and Jock also has ambitions in the agriculture space.
“Jock loves the farm, everything to do with the farm! He is now able to do that in a formal setting where he gets exposure to things like irrigation and different aspects of farming. At this point in time, his career dream is to one day take his dog and his horse and head up to the Northern Territory to work on a big station!
“The big thing for us is for them to be able to have those opportunities. If they want to pursue academic careers, the school supplies that through prep and obviously the teachers are on hand. If they don’t want to, they still do prep but that’s on them. Both my kids are very social kids, they love being around their peers. On our farm they don’t tend to have that as much so that was a real drawcard for them.”
Emma and Jock are both ecstatic to be attending selective public agricultural boarding schools, thanks to support provided by the Commonwealth Regional Scholarships program.