Save Our Schools today called on the Minister for Education to extend the consultation period on the proposed ACT Schools Standards Authority.
SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said that five weeks is too short for effective community discussion.
“The Minister is proposing one of the biggest ever changes to the governance and administration of the ACT school system since it was first established. Such a proposal should be subject to the widest possible public discussion.
“A five week consultation at the beginning of the school year is meaningless and insulting to the community. It effectively disenfranchises school communities from engagement in the process.
“Parent organisations will have little opportunity to formally consider the proposal in the time available, let alone the broader parent community. This is the period in which new P&C committees are being elected and some will not have had a chance to consider the discussion paper by the close of the consultation.
“School boards will have virtually no opportunity to discuss the proposal or canvass views in their school community.
“Far-reaching changes are being proposed by the Minister and their possible ramifications should be properly considered by the whole ACT community. Five weeks is not enough time for the potential implications and the costs and benefits of the proposals to be brought to light and discussed.
“It is yet another example of the complete disregard that the ACT Government has for proper community consultation. Indeed, the public could be entitled to see it as contempt for public engagement and views.”
Mr. Cobbold said that effective discussion will be hampered by the lack of justification for the new Authority and the lack of information about how it will operate.
“The discussion paper provides no real justification for the changes. It gives no guidance to the possible implications of the changes. It provides no legislative or operational details of the Authority.
“For example, there is no information about the form of the Authority or its governance arrangements. The powers proposed for the new Authority are not indicated, nor is its composition.
“The community is being asked to consider the establishment of an Authority whose legislative and operational details are unknown. This is simply unacceptable.”
Mr. Cobbold called on the Minister to extend the period of consultation and provide more information on the proposed Authority.
“The consultation period should be extended at least until the end of first semester and the Minister should provide more details about the form the Authority will take.”