Save Our Schools today called on the ACT Government to halt to its school closure program, re-instate teachers cut from government secondary schools and fulfil its election promises on education. SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said the revised Budget surplus of $117 million should be used to reverse the damage done to public education by last year’s cuts to education.
“The Government should immediately halt the school closure program. Seven schools are due to close at the end of 2007 and another 5 are due to close at the end of 2008. Four other schools are to be partially closed in 2008 to become P-3 schools. The revised Budget figures show that there is no case to proceed with these closures.
“For those schools already closed, the Government should provide an opportunity for the relevant communities to demonstrate support for re-opening their school.
“The ACT can still afford the benefits provided by the neighbourhood school system. It provides ready access to a local school for families with young children, especially those on low incomes. It minimises traffic safety risks and the costs of public or private transport.
Mr. Cobbold said that the Government made a mistake in cutting 60 teachers from government secondary schools earlier this year and that these cuts should be reversed.
“Save Our Schools calls on the Government to re-instate the 35 teachers cut from high schools and 25 from colleges.
“These cuts have damaged public education. Government secondary schools have had their favourable staffing ratio compared to private schools slashed by over half. The student/teacher ratio in government secondary schools is now about 12.4, compared to the previous ratio of 11.9, and is only marginally better than the 12.8 in private schools.
“The cuts have reduced the general level of support available for young people at a crucial stage of their learning and personal development. They mean less out-of-class learning help for students, reduced feedback for students, less out-of-class pastoral care and personal mentoring of students.
“We need to give greater support to the development of young people in secondary schools, not less. The teacher cuts should be reversed.”
Mr. Cobbold also called on the Stanhope Government to implement its election promises on government high schools.
“The Government promised to provide an additional $12 million for government high schools, including two additional professional staff for each high school. The Government can no longer justify reneging on this commitment.
“Indeed, it now owes each high school an average of four additional teachers – two to replace those cut earlier this year and two more to honour its election promise.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the ACT Government can clearly afford to reverse the education cuts of last year and implement its election promises.
“The ACT Government has one of the strongest financial positions of any government in Australia. It has accumulated budget surpluses of $735 million since 2001-02 while ignoring fundamental issues in government school education. A further $320 million surplus is estimated for the next four years.
“Part of the surpluses should be used to enhance the strength of the ACT government school system and address its problems.”