Islamic School Re-location Highlights Policy Contradictions

Save Our Schools says that the Chief Minister’s announcement that his Government will consider re-locating the Islamic School to the CIT site at Weston has highlighted several policy contradictions.

SOS Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, called on the Chief Minister to explain the contradictions and widen the consultation about the re-location to consider alternative options for the site.

“The Chief Minister’s announcement has created five stark contradictions in government policy that need urgent clarification:

  1. Why has the Government said that it will not consider using former school sites for private schools yet is prepared to consider another public education facility for use by a private school?
  2. Why has the Government previously rejected a formal proposal from the teachers’ union to turn the CIT site into a public education vocational pathways training facility for students in danger of dropping out of school or who have already disengaged yet is prepared to consider handing the site over to a private school.
  3. Why is the Government providing special consideration to the Islamic School by transferring buildings and facilities worth millions of dollars for its use when other private schools have to provide their own buildings and facilities?
  4. Why is the Government even considering giving such generous support to a small private school of 100 students when it is just closed 11 government primary schools, 7 of which had over 130 students?
  5. Why has the Government closed two government primary schools in Weston Creek because, it said, of declining enrolments yet is prepared to re-locate a private school to the region and consider it opening a new high school as well?”

Mr. Cobbold said that these questions demand answers from the Chief Minister.

“The Chief Minister appears to be at odds again with the Education Minister. Only last week, Mr. Barr stated that it was government policy not to hand over former school sites to private schools. The Chief Minister should explain why this policy is not equally applicable to other public education facilities such as the CIT Weston site.

“It also appears that the Chief Minister is giving special preference to the Islamic School over other private schools. He said that re-location to the CIT site would save the school from having to construct a new school. But, this hand-out is not available to other private schools. The CIT site is a multi-million dollar facility.

“It is established practice for the ACT Government to make direct land grants to new private schools, but it has not been general practice to hand over existing government-owned buildings to private schools. Private schools are expected to make their own arrangements for school buildings and facilities, albeit with the aid of Federal government capital grants.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the possible re-location of the Islamic School to Weston had all the makings of another failure in school planning by the ACT Government.

“Re-locating a primary school and opening a high school in a region which the Government says is experiencing declining numbers of school-aged children will only add to the pressure on existing government and private schools in the area.

“The issues at stake here are the privatisation of government education facilities that otherwise could be used for public education and social purposes and the impact of a new private school. This is not an issue about a religious-based school. The right of community or religious groups to establish schools is not being questioned.”

Mr. Cobbold called on the Chief Minister to widen the community consultation to consider other options for use of the site.

“We believe that the priority use of the CIT site should be for public education enhancement. Using it for an alternative vocational pathways school for at risk students surely fits that purpose better than any private school, regardless of its religious basis.

“The consultation announced by the Chief Minister should be widened to consider this and other options for the future of the site.”

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