Media release 19 October 2006 – Birth Figures Call School Closure Plan into Question

Save Our Schools today called on the Minister for Education to re-estimate the enrolment projections in ACT government schools in the light of birth figures released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, said that the new figures call into question the whole basis of the ACT Government’s school closure plan.

“The Stanhope Government’s school closure plan is based on declining enrolments in schools. The ABS birth figures suggest that these enrolment projections are inaccurate in many instances. New births and fertility rates are increasing in most of the suburbs in which schools are proposed to close.

“Nine of the 13 urban primary schools in Canberra proposed for closure are in suburbs where birth numbers have increased over the last 5 years.

“In several cases, the increase was very high. For example, the number of births in Chifley increased from 25 in 2000 to 38 in 2005, an increase of over 50 per cent and births in Melba increased from 35 to 54, an increase of nearly 50 per cent.

“Births in Flynn increased from 48 to 62, an increase of nearly 30 per cent. Births also increased by over 30 per cent in Rivett and Weston.

“The birth numbers in many suburbs where schools are proposed for closure are now similar to those in many other suburbs whose schools are seen as viable in the longer term.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the ABS figures also showed that fertility rates are increasing in most of the suburbs where schools are proposed for closure.

“Fertility rates have increased since 2000 in suburbs where 11 schools are proposed for closure. All 13 urban schools slated for closure are in suburbs where the fertility rate in 2005 is above the average for the ACT.

“Several suburbs in which schools are proposed for closure have amongst the highest fertility rates in Canberra. For example, the fertility rates for Flynn and Chifley (Melrose PS) are 2.29 and 2.22 respectively, compared to the average for the ACT of 1.63.

Mr. Cobbold said that the Government has to re-examine its enrolment projections as a result of these new ABS figures.

“The figures suggest that Canberra is seeing more than just the slight national increases in fertility and births – there are real signs of urban renewal in suburbs which have been ageing.

“The Minister for Education has to go back to the drawing board. The enrolment projections have to be re-done. It would be a scandal if the Government went ahead with its school closure plan only to find that demographic renewal has turned enrolment patterns around, as happened in many suburbs last time around.”

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