A WORLD FIRST
By EMMA CORNFORD
MUCH IS made of the 'brain drain' from the Clarence Valley, as young people leave to pursue higher education.
And while many have wondered what to do about the problem, few remedies have been suggested.
But if South Grafton High principal Barry Bartley secures funding, the cream of Clarence Valley school students will come together at South High for a gifted and talented centre of excellence for maths, science and technology. Mr Bartley believes the program would be a world first.
"As educators we need to step outside the square and challenge the way that we teach. It can't stay chalk and talk anymore," he said.
"In education in the past 10 years, we've been catering to kids with learning difficulties and behavioural problems and we've got some very good programs for those kids. But now it's time to go the other way ... and make education real for those students with a high level of ability."
Ultimately the program would tie in with industries around the Clarence, such as the Agricultural and Research Station, and give students the opportunity to work on projects which are at the cutting edge of technology, while they study.
"We want the kids to go and be a part of the running and structure of those organisations ? not just work experience but to actually experience it," Mr Bartley said.
When he floated the idea at the Clarence Valley Innovation Expo this week, Mr Bartley said he received 'overwhelming' support from the local business community.
"Professor Paul Clark from Southern Cross University also came to me yesterday and said he wanted to get on board with this program and we'll be meeting in Lismore next week and discussing the real possibility of combining school and uni work.
"While that's not something that hasn't been done before we're going to expand on it even further."
South Grafton High Year 12 advanced student Mark McGuire said he thought the program would be 'great'.
"It will get all the smart kids in the one class and they'll have the chance to excel where at the moment they can't really because the other kids kind of slow you down a bit," he said.
Mr Bartley said funding for the project was available through a Federal Government education grant to promote science.
"The program is to turnout world class science students and I honestly think we would be doing that if we can get the support of the community," he said.
"I can't see any downside because it's for all the kids of the Clarence Valley and if they can see what's happening we can keep some of them here in the Valley."