PERTH, Jan 11 - The decision late last year to scrap the school by a government dealing with record debt and deficit sparked an angry backlash from affected families in remote areas.

Premier Mark McGowan insisted at the time the same services would be provided by the existing Perth-based School of Isolated and Distance Education.

However on his first day back since Christmas, the premier and Education Minister Sue Ellery held a press conference to say they were wrong in axing the SOTA and various other cuts. 

They had also included axing programs for gifted and talented students and a freeze on intakes for higher qualified level three teachers.

McGowan apologised to affected families.

"Clearly ... we went a bit far and we caused stress and anxiety to some families and some students and for that we apologise," he told reporters on Thursday.

A petition to save School of the Air started by a Nationals MP Vince Catania attracted 32,000 signatures.

The $23 million hole in its planned budget savings would now have to come from other departments, McGowan said.

Ellery said the government had failed to get the balance right between budget savings and the value placed by the community on services.

"While budget repair is important ... we had got the balance wrong, we got the timing wrong and we failed to bring people with us," she said. 

She said she accepted that parents valued the sense of community provided by the School of the Air.

The reversal has been welcomed but not before the government was accused by the Liberals, Nationals, Greens and One Nation of poor judgment in making the decision in the first place and for putting affected students and families through "an agonising month of pain and uncertainty".

"Two backflips, first we had Perth Modern and now we have School of the Air," Opposition Leader Mike Nahan said, referring to the government also dropping plans to relocate the academically selective Perth Modern School.

Community and Public Sector Union WA secretary Toni Walkington said the decision was evidence the government needed to find a new way to work with affected stakeholders.

"The anxiety and effort triggered by these cuts and their impact could easily have been avoided by engaging collaboratively with parents, staff and other stakeholders," she said.

AAP