SOS Calls for Full Enrolment Figures

The Save Our Schools Canberra group today called on the Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, to release the full enrolment application figures for high schools in 2007. SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, criticised the Minister for releasing only selective figures.

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Education Council Alarmed at School Closures

The peak public education advisory body to the ACT Government has expressed alarm at the extent and impact of school closures proposed in the Towards 2020 Plan. It has also indicated its grave concern about the impact of the Budget on equity in education.

In a response to the Education Budget, the Government Schools Education Council has said that the Budget will clearly exacerbate inequity in the ACT, undermine the Canberra Social Plan, restrict access to higher performance, and affect the quality of educational provision. It expressed its alarm at the extent and impact of the school closures proposed, the extent of head office cuts and their effects, and the extent of the reductions proposed to the teaching force.

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No Funding for Increased Student Bus Travel and Student Safety

The Stanhope Government has admitted that it has no plans in place to cope with increased bus travel by students as a result of school closures. Nor has it any plans to improve traffic safety measures for students walking or cycling long distances to and from school.

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Just for the Record – Other Broken Promises

Before the 2004 ACT election, a spokesman for the then Minister for Education categorically ruled out closing any schools during the next term of government. He said:

“The Government will not be closing schools”. [Canberra Times, 12 August 2004, p.2]

Last year, the same spokesman said that the Government has no plans to close more schools in Canberra beyond Ginninderra District High School:

“There is no active consideration [of school closures] at the moment, it is not on the Government’s agenda.”  [Canberra Times, 26 July 2005, p.1].

The following day the Minister for Education was reported as ruling out further school closures, with a spokeswoman for the Minister stating:

“There are no other plans on the agenda.” [Canberra Times, 27 July 2005, p.1].

On his first day as Education Minister, Andrew Barr scoffed at speculation that the ACT Government had plans to close 33 schools and denied the Government was looking at this many.

“I don’t think…that we need to go to 33.” [Canberra Times, 22 April 2006, p.1]

Just six weeks later he announced the Plan to close 39 schools.

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School Sites to be Sold – Another Broken Promise

The list of broken promises by the Stanhope Government on school closures continues to grow. The latest is the Government’s reversal on selling off school sites.

The Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, told regional consultation meetings held in June that school sites would not be closed. For example, he gave a firm commitment to the South-East Belconnen regional meeting on 27 June that ‘there will be no land sales as a result of school closures’ (Canberra Times, 28 June 2006).

Now the Chief Minister has unilaterally broken this commitment. He told the Canberra Times (5 August, 2006) that the Government will likely sell unused school land for residential development and aged-care facilities.

So, the Government’s commitment not to sell school sites lasted only about 5 weeks.

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The Case for an Independent Public Inquiry on School Closures

The Government’s Towards 2020 Plan is in tatters and the process of consultation has become a shambles. The Government is ignoring its legal obligations to consider the full educational, financial and social impact of its Plan. Obfuscation and deceit has become the modus operandi of a Government under pressure. It is time for an independent public inquiry to clean up the mess.

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Minister Refuses to Divulge Savings Figures

The Education Minister, Andrew Barr, continues to deny important data to school communities. He has refused to provide detailed data on school costs and savings for each individual school proposed for closure or amalgamation. In effect, the Minister’s refusal and stated reasons for not supplying the data demonstrates that the Government’s school closure plan is based on incomplete and inadequate data.

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Labor is Divided On School Closures

The ALP Branch Conference held at the weekend has revealed a party and a Government that is deeply divided over the Towards 2020 school closure plan. The Conference vote against a moratorium on the Plan was only 100 to 96. The two previous Education Ministers, Simon Corbell and Katy Gallagher, voted for a moratorium as did some Government backbenchers.

This is a major division that threatens the future of the Government. The Chief Minister has his head in the sand if he thinks otherwise.

The division in ALP ranks has been created by the resistance and protest of school communities and parents across Canberra at the Government’s plan.

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Increased Student Bus Travel Costs Will Cut Savings from School Closures

The Government has failed to provide any information on the impact of its proposed school closures on student bus travel or on ACTION costs and revenues. The Education Minister, Andrew Barr, has asserted at regional consultation meetings that increases in student bus travel will be met by alterations to existing services. Continue reading “Increased Student Bus Travel Costs Will Cut Savings from School Closures”