No Educational Rationale for School Closures

The Australian College of Education has challenged participants in the school closure debates to focus on educational outcomes. Save Our Schools Canberra is happy to take up the challenge, since improving educational outcomes, particularly equity in outcomes, for ACT students, is the ultimate test of the Stanhope Government’s proposal – a test which it totally fails.

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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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Minister Fails to Meet Legal Obligations on School Closures Information

The Save Our Schools group said today that the Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, has failed to meet statutory obligations to provide parents with statements of reasons for schools being listed for closure.

SOS spokesperson, Dr. Ian Morgan, said that the Minister had failed to comply with the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1989, and his Government has shown contempt not only for the school parent community, but also for the Legislative Assembly and ACT law. Continue reading “Minister Fails to Meet Legal Obligations on School Closures Information”

Do a ‘Safety Hazard Walk’

The Stanhope Government has failed to do any planning to provide traffic calming or pedestrian and cycling safety infrastructure for students travelling longer distances to and from school as a result of school closures.

A way of highlighting this Government neglect and incompetence in providing for student safety is for parent groups to organise a ‘safety hazard walk’ to other schools in the region. The purpose is to document and highlight safety hazards for young children walking or cycling to a school outside their local neighbourhood.

‘Safety hazard walks’ could be organised by whole groups of families as a way of generating media publicity about the safety risks of travelling to a school outside the neighbourhood. Good media liaison is essential to the success of these events. Also, it is a good idea to check the route beforehand so as to be prepared for significant safety risks, especially if young children are involved.

The information obtained in such walks can be used in press releases to highlight the lack of Government planning and concern for student safety. It can also be used in submissions on the Towards 2020 Plan.

Estimate Distance and Cost to Attend New School

An action item for parent groups preparing their case against their school being closed is to do an estimate of the increased distance their children will have to walk to another school in the region and the additional costs incurred by bus or car travel to other schools. Continue reading “Estimate Distance and Cost to Attend New School”

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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