Barr’s spin on PC 2008 Report into Government Services

The latest Productivity Commission report, the 2008 Report on Government Services, has been used by Chief Minister Jon Stanhope and Minister for Education Andrew Barr to justify their scorched earth approach to education reform. It’s all in Stanhope’s and Barr’s press releases.

Rather than owning up to the disastrous effects of school closures on schools and their communities, they have used the report (using data from 2006) to justify their ‘reforms’, quoting the higher costs of ACT government services. If Mr Stanhope is to be believed, the still-secret Costello Functional review said the same thing. Can it now be released to the public?

By the way, with a level of hypocrisy and self-contradiction that should amaze even the most cynical, Barr stated in another press release that the higher spending is a Good Thing for education. So much for the financial ‘need’ to close schools.

The effects of school closures on government school enrolments are downplayed, with claims that the decline to August 2006 predated any ‘reforms’ (schools were closed at the end of 2006). If Towards 2020 had achieved its goal, then we would expect to see an increase in government school enrolments in 2007. This did not happen.

The Productivity Commission’s report and the February 2007 enrolment data show:

  • August 2006: 61.9% of all primary school students and 55.6% of all secondary students attended a government school
  • February 2007: 60.9% of all primary school students and 55.2% of secondary students attended a government school.

This shows a continued decline in government school enrolments, regardless of spin, and regardless of the millions spent on new schools.

The ACT Government has never been able to justify the social and educational cost of closing schools. The government’s response to the latest independent data show that they just don’t get it.

Closing schools doesn’t improve education or halt a drift to the relatively secure private sector. Closing schools doesn’t even increase curriculum offerings, as many children from closing schools will attest. Closing schools, well, just closes schools.

Sarah James

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