Stanhope’s school closures figures are already in tatters

Towards the end of the “consultation” meetings, the Stanhope Government has already been forced to admit that its figures on the school closure proposals are fundamentally flawed.

  • The Minister has been forced to admit that many of the figures on excess capacity are out-of-date, and were not systematically up-dated prior to making the budget decisions on school closures. Many school communities have now successfully challenged the official figures.
  • The Minister has been forced to admit that the per capita cost figures for each school are fundamentally flawed – because the per capita costs for many small schools are inflated by the high per capita costs of the units for students with special needs. At Estimates, the Department has now admitted that it will take some time to do the calculations properly.
  • Some of the figures in the Vision 2020 documents are also clearly wrong. For example, over 300 students seem to go missing in North Canberra as Dickson College and Campbell High are amalgamated. In this case, the disappearance is convenient, because it means that the students will fit into the capacity at Campbell High, without the need to build new facilities for 300 students. And over 250 students go missing in North West Belconnen in one of the models.

So key figures on which the Stanhope Government has decided on school closures are now in question. Yet the Stanhope Government is sticking to its decision, despite the shonky figures.

The Minister has also failed to explain the estimated savings from school closures. He has been repeatedly asked to publish the methodology and the school by school analysis. So far, despite some vague promises, nothing has been done, and all the community has to scrutinise is a one-line budget figure.

If the analysis has been carried out, as it should have been prior to making decisions, then the methodology and figures should be readily available. It should take only a matter of minutes to put them on the internet.

  • Are we therefore to conclude that the analysis has never been done?
  • Or has the Minister realised that the methodology and figures will not stand up to public scrutiny?

Finally, despite claims to have carried out a whole-of-government analysis, the public scrutiny of the proposals has already revealed that the Minister has:

  • Not attempted to estimate flows of students into the private sector
  • Not attempted to analyse the reasons why parents shift to the private sector. At Estimates, the Department of Education admitted that it does not have a systematic approach to collecting this data, and that what data exists would have to be collated from individual schools!
  • Not carried out a risk assessment of the proposals and the associated costs of risk mitigation

In other words, the Stanhope Government has not done its homework prior to making decisions. Even the Labor back-benchers are backing community calls for more information.

All this has come out in less than two weeks. There will undoubtedly be more to come as the Minister is forced to reveal more of the background analysis, or the fact that it has not been carried out.

The Stanhope Government has already clearly failed the test of community consultation.

Ian Morgan

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