The West

Many teachers could miss out on professional training because the Education Department has told schools to crack down on travel costs as part of State Government Budget savings.

In the past 12 months, nine education bureaucrats made 35 interstate flights, including 11 business class flights by director-general Sharyn O'Neill and research executive director Peter Titmanis, who briefed her before meetings.

In a recent memo to principals, Ms O'Neill said the Government had cut the department's budget by $5.9 million.

"All staff travel that has already been booked and paid for should be reassessed to determine if it is essential for student learning or whether it can be cancelled or deferred," it said. "This includes most professional learning."

The memo said all national meetings should be done by teleconference and no new travel could be arranged without approval from a regional executive director. Shadow education minister Paul Papalia said country students would be disadvantaged because their teachers would be unable to attend professional training or conferences in the city.

"Essential occupational health and safety training for design and technology teachers will not be provided," he said. "The safety of students and staff will be put at risk."

Ms O'Neill said staff needed to take a "commonsense" approach on whether travel was essential.

She was reviewing her own travel arrangements and might fly economy class more often.

Education Minister Peter Collier said the department had a responsibility to reduce inefficiencies without affecting students' learning.

The West Australian

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