Government claims that the neighbourhood school is obsolete and that most students do not attend their local school are refuted by the Government’s own enrolment data.
The Minister for Education has argued that large numbers of families have deserted the neighbourhood school.
…the majority of students now do not walk to school. Approaching 50 per cent of students in our public system in fact do not even attend their local school and go past often eight or ten other government schools to attend a particular school that their parents have chosen or that they have chosen. So I think it is already the case that parents and students are making the choice not to attend local schools. [Hansard, 16 August 2006]
The Minister has also argued that the neighbourhood school is a relic of the sixties and seventies and that it does not now reflect the modern day realities of Canberra and the way in which parents and students are making choices about which school to attend [Hansard, 16 August 2006].
These claims are incorrect. The Minister for Education has mislead the Legislative Assembly and the public about the extent to which students attend a government school other than their local school.
The fact is that the large majority of families continue to support their local school. According to 2006 enrolment data, 64 per cent of primary school students are attending their local neighbourhood school.
It is also relevant to note that in the secondary sector, 62 per cent of students attend their local high school and 63 per cent of college students attend their local college. These figures are similar to those of ten years ago; the high school figure is slightly down on that of 1996, while that for colleges has increased slightly.
Furthermore, only about half of the primary schools proposed for full closure retain less than 50 per cent of the resident PEA students. Several primary schools proposed for closure retain an above average proportion of resident PEA students: for example, Gilmore (66%), Giralang (70%) and Holt (67%).
Several of the schools that retain less than 50% of the resident PEA students meet particular needs of the local community in that they have a large proportion of low SES, Indigenous and SWD students: for example, Melrose, Mt. Neighbour, Rivett and Village Creek. Nearly all the schools proposed for part closure and which retain less than 50% of the resident PEA students also serve particular needs of the local community.
Thus, contrary to the claims of the ACT Government, the neighbourhood school still serves an important role in the local community and is supported by the large majority of families.