ACT Education Minister Should Resign

Save Our Schools today called on the ACT Minister for Education, Andrew Barr, to resign because he misused research evidence in his decisions to close schools.

SOS Convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the Legislative Assembly should pass a no confidence motion in the Minister if he fails to tender his resignation.

“The Minister has no choice but to resign following the Assembly report on school closures which shows that he misused research in his decision to close small schools.

“The Minister has been indicted by the Education Committee of the Legislative Assembly for wrongly using the research findings of Professor Brian Caldwell on small schools to justify school closures. He has been repudiated by the Professor himself. He has been effectively condemned by his own Labor colleague on the Education Committee.

“The Minister misused the Professor’s findings in each formal Notice of Decision to close 11 primary schools in 2006. Each Notice cited the research of Professor Caldwell to justify closing the school because it had less than 300-400 students.

“Each Notice states that the school concerned is too small based on Professor Caldwell’s research and is likely unable to provide an adequate education.

“This misuse of research evidence has been repudiated by Professor Caldwell in evidence to the Education Committee. The Committee’s report cites the Professor as follows:

… there is to my knowledge no evidence to support a conclusion that primary schools of less than 300-400 students are necessarily less educationally effective because of their size. [p.47]
…‘research has repeatedly found small schools to be superior to large schools on most measures and equal to them on the rest’. [p.46-47]

“The Committee’s report concludes:

The Committee has concluded that the Professor Caldwell’s research had been used to support a particular policy conclusion when….it supports the provision of quality education services in school settings of various sizes including in small schools. The Committee also observed that this interpretation has been used to support a decision-making process without significant contact or verification of the interpretation from the author. [p.47]

“What this tortuous language means is that the Minister has misled the Assembly and the public about the research on small schools. It says that he also failed to take proper steps to ensure that he was using the research correctly in making his decisions to close schools.

“The Minister has even been effectively condemned by his own ALP colleague on the Education Committee, Joy Burch. She made no dissent on the Committee’s conclusion, despite dissenting from many others.”

Mr. Cobbold said that the consequences of the Minister’s misuse use of Professor Caldwell’s research have been momentous and for which he should be held accountable.

“Eleven communities have lost their school, largely as a result of the Minister’s misrepresentation of Professor Caldwell’s research on the effectiveness of small schools. The Minister has continually misled the Assembly and the public about this research.

“If the Minister refuses to do the honourable thing, it is up to the Liberals and the Greens in the Assembly to hold him accountable.

“The Minister’s position is untenable and the Assembly must act decisively to restore its integrity and reputation if the Minister is unwilling to resign.

“If he refuses to resign, the Liberal and Greens members should jointly move a motion of ‘No Confidence’ in the Minister at the next sitting of the Assembly.”

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