Save Our Schools has welcomed the appointment of an independent panel to advise the ACT Minister for Education on the review of the in-principle approval and registration process for private schools in the ACT. SOS Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said the appointment of the panel provides some prospect for a much-needed tightening of the registration process.
“The approval of three new private schools late last year revealed significant gaps in the approval and registration process for new private schools in Canberra.
“More detailed legislative guidelines are needed to assess the impact of new private schools on existing government and private schools and community demand for new private schools.
“Legislation changes should be made to ensure that the special role of the government school system to provide free and reasonable access to a secular education in all regions of the ACT is not be impaired by the establishment of new private schools. New private schools should not threaten the continuation of reasonable local access to a government school for families.
“Private schools also face a much lighter regulatory framework than government schools even though private schools are substantially funded by the taxpayer. Government schools are required to meet a range of policies and standards that are not required for private schools. There are significant gaps in the regulation of private schools relating to the safety and welfare of students and in governance arrangements.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the transparency of the approval and registration process also needs to be strengthened.
“Legislative changes are needed to facilitate greater public scrutiny of applications for new private schools, advice to the Minister on applications and decisions by the Minister.
“The current process allows potential for bias and conflicts of interest in the composition of panels to assess the registration of new private schools.”
The panel appointed by the Minister for Education, Joy Burch, will analyse submissions from education groups about the current process and consider proposals for improvement. The Minister said that:
“This review will look at ways to improve the processes and practices related to applications for in-principle approval of new non-government schools and campuses and the registration of non-government schools.”
The panel consists of two members – Mr. Craig Curry and Ms. Narelle Hargreaves.
Mr Curry is currently Chair of the Government Schools Education Council, and has previously held several leadership roles in education including as a Executive Director in the ACT Education and Training Directorate, Manager of Special Education at the NSW Department of Education and Training, and as Principal at several NSW schools.
Ms Hargreaves is currently Chair of the Non-Government Schools Education Council. She has many years of teaching experience, including 14 years as a Principal in ACT schools. She also held the position of Director of Schools & International Education and Community Partnerships with the ACT Education & Training Directorate for 10 years.
Ms Burch said the review would be finalised by the end of the year, and stakeholders will be advised of any changes arising from the review.