Save Our Schools today released its 75-page submission on ACT Government’s school closure plan.
SOS spokesperson, Trevor Cobbold, said that the Government has failed to justify its case to close schools on educational, financial or demographic grounds.
“Towards 2020 is an unsubstantiated, flawed and inequitable school plan. It is based on a litany of unsubstantiated claims by the Stanhope Government. It represents a major failure of public policy processes in the ACT.
“There is a long list of Government failures in Towards 2020:
- It has failed to publish clear criteria to assess proposed closures and it has ignored social equity considerations.
- It has failed to show that small schools deliver lower student results than larger schools; student results are just as good, if not better, in small schools and closing schools will most likely lead to lower student outcomes.
- It has failed to take account of new research that shows that students from low socio-economic backgrounds do better in smaller schools.
- It has failed to show that curriculum is inadequate in small schools; its claims are contradicted by the findings of the ACT Curriculum Renewal Task Force.
- It has failed to demonstrate that the introduction of new school structures will improve education outcomes; the research evidence shows outcomes will not improve.
- It has exaggerated the financial case for school closures:
- It has over-estimated the costs of small schools;
- It has over-estimated the savings to the Department of Education from closing schools because a range of additional costs have been ignored;
- It has failed to take account of increased costs to other government departments for increased student bus travel, the need for additional traffic safety measures and ongoing building maintenance and security costs;
- It has failed to take account of increased costs to families and the community.
- It has failed to take account of increasing new birth numbers in many suburbs where schools are proposed to close.
Mr. Cobbold said that Towards 2020 is inequitable and contradicts the Government’s Social Plan.
“The least well-off families in Canberra will bear the brunt of the burden of school closures. Indigenous students and their families will bear a disproportionate burden of the costs and disruption and students with disabilities and their families will also bear a disproportionate burden.
“Towards 2020 threatens greater inequity in education rather than improved equity as the Government claims. Towards 2020 shows that the Stanhope Government is more interested in its credit rating in financial markets than improving equity in education.”
The SOS submission says that significant savings to the Government from closing schools will be dependent on selling off school grounds and shifting large numbers of students into the private sector where the Commonwealth provides most of the funding.
“Any savings to the Government will be at the expense of increased costs to families and the community, including:
- Increased financial costs to families for transport to and from school;
- Increased traffic safety risks in travelling to and from school;
- Increased environmental costs;
- Reduced property values;
- Loss of community facilities and services;
- Loss of community ‘green space’ and recreational areas; and
- The break-up of support and friendship networks for students and families based around schools
SOS says that the Government should look to another model of education delivery in the ACT to improve equity in education.
“There is an alternative to school closures. Community schools are a well-established and proven way to improve educational and social equity by integrating learning and other community support services.
“Excess space in schools should be seen as an opportunity to develop a community school model that will improve education and other services for those most in need in the ACT.”