Education Amendment Bill 2008

Parliamentary Convenor of the ACT Greens, Meredith Hunter, tabled a Bill in the Legislative Assembly to amend the school closure provisions of the Education Act. Her tabling statement is as follows. 

This bill amends the Education Act 2004 to ensure that any decisions to amalgamate, close or consider closing a government school are made in a rigorous, thoughtful and transparent manner.  The Greens are committed to reviewing the impact on children, families and communities of the Towards 2020 school closures.  We are also determined to ensure that such a false and ill considered process can never happen again.

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Minister Denies Parents Access to Super School

The ACT Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, has unilaterally denied several families access to the new super school in West Belconnen. Many parents have found out less than two months before the Charles Kingsford Smith School is due to open its doors that their children will be unable to attend because it will only take P-7 students for 2009.

The Stanhope Govt has misled the people of West Belconnen. For the past three years, the super-school has been promoted as opening in 2009 as a P-10 school. There has never been any indication that the opening of the school would be phased in. Families have just been told of this now, only two months before the school opens in the New Year.

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The great school sell-off: schools closed for the land

The battle over schools continues with a revelation that the Stanhope Government closed schools according to their capacity to earn a quick dollar from real estate sales.

Documents with information about land and building values contained ‘advice or recommendations recorded in relation to deliberations and advice to the Executive regarding budgetary matters affecting the 2020 proposals’, according to the findings of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) in relation to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for documents related to the 2006 school closures.

These findings contradict claims that ‘There has been no factoring in of any sale of buildings within the package …’ by Minister for Education Andrew Barr on several occasions, such as a Stateline Interview (09/06/06), and also as reported in the Canberra Times (09/06/06; 28/06/2006). Also proved false are claims that the documents should not be released because they were ‘outside the scope of the request’ (i.e. relevant).

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League tables used in ACT school closures

Schedules to 20,000 pages of Freedom of Information (FOI) papers and the findings of a related Administrative Appeals Tribunal hearing that were handed down only this year provide strong evidence that the results from student literacy and numeracy testing, then called ACTAP (the ACT Assessment Program), were used in the 2006 school closures.

At the time, the Chief Minister in his role as acting Education Minister denied accusations of using ACTAP in this way, calling them ‘mischievous’ and ‘false’ (_Canberra Times_ 08/08/06). More recently, the same government has insisted it opposes using the results of student testing to create league tables (Canberra Times 28/08/08, p. 4).

But the truth is ACTAP results were used in closing schools; and the Stanhope government has sought to cover it up.

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More Meaningless Rhetoric on Community Consultation

The Chief Minister’s proposals for the reform of community consultation processes in the ACT amount to more meaningless rhetoric from a Government under pressure.

The Chief Minister is only promising superficial change, not real change. All he has done is to serve up more bureaucratic drivel that fails to deal with the key failures in community consultation.

The big failure of the Stanhope Govt on community consultation has been its use of sham consultations to get a pre-determined outcome. This is what it did in the case of the W. Belconnen super-school and the school closure program. It had made up its mind before the consultations began.

What the Chief Minister has to do to make real change is to commit to full open consultations processes, not sham consultations.

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Communities Face Sell-Off of Green Space Around Closed Schools

Save Our Schools today released figures which show that over 70% of ‘green space’ of 8 closed school sites is being considered for sale by the ACT Government.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the implications of the proposed sell-off should be canvassed at public meetings beginning this week on the future closed school sites.

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Govt. is in a Dither over Closed School Sites

The ACT Government is in a complete dither about what to do with the closed school sites. On the one hand, it has a report from Purdon Associates that says “sell, sell, sell”. However, the problem for the Government is that the report also reveals strong community opposition to selling off school buildings and ‘green space’.

There is a stark contrast between the recommendations of the Purdon’s report and the outcomes of the consultation it conducted with regional and local communities last year. The report recommended partial or full re-development of each closed school site (except Hall and Tharwa), while retaining some parts for community use.

It also found that there is a strong community preference for the buildings and grounds to be retained for community use. There was very limited community support for re-development of the sites.

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Media Release 10 June 2008 – School Consultation Contract Didn’t Go To Public Tender

Save Our Schools today called on the Acting Chief Minister to explain why the contract for the latest school site consultation was not subject to public tender. SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the Government exempted the contract from the normal public tender process for government contracts over $100 000 and has failed to justify the exemption. Continue reading “Media Release 10 June 2008 – School Consultation Contract Didn’t Go To Public Tender”

A Message of Support From Save Our Schools

Save Our Schools has sent a message of support to the Hemmant school community in Brisbane who are fighting against their school closing.

Hemmant is a small school of 90 students supported by a very committed parent community. The Queensland Minister for Education wants to combine it with up to 4 other primary schools into one with over 900 enrolments. The school has been the hub of the community for 144 years with all buildings heritage listed. It appears that the Government wants to sell off the land. Continue reading “A Message of Support From Save Our Schools”