Barr’s divide and conquer strategy

Minister for Education Andrew Barr has this week announced that a Canberra Liberals’ plan to reopen empty schools “will take money away from all school renovations and the building of new schools such as the Harrison High School, Gungahlin College, West Belconnen High School and the new Kambah High School”.

Thinly disguised as an attack on the budgeting skills of the Canberra Liberals, the real motives appear to be a more sinister attempt to repeat the divisive tactics he succesfully used in the 2006 shcool closure campaign.

The message from his statements are that, in Belconnen for example, if Cook and Flynn were to re-open then the future of West Belconnen High School, school upgrades, teacher’s wages and a host of other schools funding programs in the district would all be threatened.

There is no other reasonable explanation for an attempt by an education minister to try to inject fear of schools re-opening into school communities fortunate enough to survive Towards 2020.

It gets worse, though. To keep with the Belconnen example, the basic facts are wrong – as West Belconnen High School is actually a P-10 school. The suggestion is, then, that re-opening two primary schools (Cook and Flynn) could affect the viability of a high school. In fact, the alleged savings from closed schools – which have never been accepted as fact by SOS – have been spent several times over if Mr Barr’s press releases are to be believed. It is a logical etension that this press release has spent the same savings again.

In addition, both West Belconnen and Harrison were announced well before the 2006 closures. There is no way that closing schools, or re-opening them, should affect this capital expenditure, unless the government had relied on a predetermined decision to close schools and sell off the land to provide the funds.

Closing Cook and Flynn primary Schools, for example, are proposed to be saving about half a million a year each, and the actual savings are probably lower. How this could fund the multi-million capital works investment Mr Barr referred to, as well as the long list of ongoing programs in Belconnen – in line with the claimed regional basis for educational provision – can be understood only with a massive leap of faith.

The ACT Government is facing a massive budget surplus, again, and the clear message from this latest statement reveals the government’s priorities. If Mr Barr was truly concerned about the Liberal’s capacity to budget, he could have asked whether re-opening schools combined with cutting taxes might affect their capacity to spend on million dollar artworks, statues, single-lane roads or other progams. Instead, he has chosen to reveal his continued disdain for school communities, trying to rekindle the division he so successfully used to his own ends back in 2006.

The only question is, who will fall for it this time around?

Sarah James

Media Release 1 April 2008 – Common Sense on Lyons, Please!

Save Our Schools today issued a plea to the Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, to display some common sense in the renovation of Lyons primary school.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the priority should be to ensure that the education of the Lyons students is not disrupted for any extended period. Continue reading “Media Release 1 April 2008 – Common Sense on Lyons, Please!”

Stanhope Government has Fostered the Drift to Private Schools

Save Our Schools today accused the Stanhope Government of actively promoting the drift of enrolments to private schools.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that enrolments in private schools have accelerated because the ACT Government has approved the expansion of private schools and shut government schools. Continue reading “Stanhope Government has Fostered the Drift to Private Schools”

Media Release 21 March 2008- School Closures Fail to Stem Drift to Private Schools

Save Our Schools says that the new ACT School Census figures show that the Stanhope Government’s school closure plan has failed to stem the drift to private schools in the ACT.

SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that the drift to private schools has accelerated and this contradicts Government claims on the benefits of school closures. Continue reading “Media Release 21 March 2008- School Closures Fail to Stem Drift to Private Schools”

Media Release 12 March Barr admission raises serious questions over school sites

Education and Planning Minister Andrew Barr’s admission in recent days that he has already changed land use at some of the schools he closed raises serious questions of conflict of interest, breach of due process and misleading the public, according to the Save Our Schools group. Continue reading “Media Release 12 March Barr admission raises serious questions over school sites”

Media Release on Cook PS Closure

The Stanhope-Barr so called “Towards 2020” ACT schools policy, which should more accurately be called “Back to 1920”, will close the doors on the vibrant and excellent Cook Primary School and Cook Preschool this Friday.

“Friday 21 December 2007 will be a very emotional day for the Cook schools community,” said Cook P&C media spokesperson Debbie Newton. Continue reading “Media Release on Cook PS Closure”

Retain School Sites for Community Use

With the completion of the community consultation on the future of closed school sites, Save Our Schools (SOS) has called for the sites to be retained for community use and not sold to increase the Budget surplus.

SOS spokeswoman, Jane Tullis, said that the recent consultations show strong support to retain the school sites for community use. Continue reading “Retain School Sites for Community Use”

Hargreaves pre-empts school sales, ‘shoots messenger’ and ignores ‘mandate’ to save schools

Territories and Municipal Services Minister, John Hargreaves appears to be blatantly disregarding community needs while pre-empting a plan to sell-off many of the closed school sites, according to the Save Our Schools group.

Continue reading “Hargreaves pre-empts school sales, ‘shoots messenger’ and ignores ‘mandate’ to save schools”

Media Release 12 September 2007 – SOS fears ‘another sham process’ over school sites

Save Our Schools fears that the ACT Government is running another ‘sham consultation process’ for the future use of closed school sites, as the Government has apparently ignored advice on how to run a better and more credible process. Continue reading “Media Release 12 September 2007 – SOS fears ‘another sham process’ over school sites”