Save Our Schools has called on the ACT Government to reject applications for new private schools in Charnwood and Molonglo. SOS convenor, Trevor Cobbold, said that the ACT Government has previously rejected a proposal for a new private school in north-west Belconnen because it would impact on existing schools and the Charnwood application should be similarly rejected.
“New private schools in Belconnen will have a significant impact on enrolments in existing schools, particularly in Charnwood where there is already a private school. Charnwood-Dunlop PS is only a few hundred metres away from the proposed new school. At present Charnwood-Dunlop PS has 285 enrolments with a school capacity of 450 (excluding pre-school capacity).
“Charnwood PS was previously proposed for partial closure when it had less than 200 enrolments. It could face the same threat again if a new school is approved almost next door. It could mean replacing a government school with a private school.
“The ACT Government previously rejected an application for a new private school in north-west Belconnen in 2008 because it would undermine the viability of existing schools in the Belconnen region. The Government also closed government schools in the region, including one in Flynn, because it said there was over-capacity.
“Average capacity utilisation in government schools in the region is only 69% and has changed little in recent years. Projected population growth in Belconnen to 2021 is only 0.3% per annum, compared to the ACT average of 1.4%, and not sufficient to bring existing schools up to capacity.
“There are already seven private schools in Belconnen that offer a Christian education for primary school students, including three in the north-west Belconnen region. There is no case for an additional school while there is such considerable school capacity already available.”
Mr. Cobbold said that the central issue about the new applications is not religion or school choice but impact on existing schools and evidence of demand.
“The ACT Education Act is quite clear on how applications for new private schools should be assessed. There are only two criteria that the Minister must consider – whether the proposed new school would undermine the viability of existing schools and whether there is evidence of sufficient demand for a new school.
“The Charnwood application fails on both counts. The Molonglo application fails on the first because planning is at such an early stage that potential impact cannot be assessed; indeed, we don’t even know yet how many schools are planned for the whole region. The Molonglo application also fails on the second criterion.
“If the proposed Islamic school is to be located in Belconnen, similar impact considerations apply as for the Charnwood application. If the Islamic school is to be located in Gungahlin, the impact on existing government and private schools would be much lower.”
Mr. Cobbold called on the Minister for Education to reject the Charnwood and Molonglo applications and to consider the Islamic school application only for Gungahlin.
“The Charnwood and Molonglo applications do not meet the criteria set out in the Education Act.
“A clear precedent was also set by the previous ACT education minister who rejected an earlier application because it would undermine the viability of existing schools in Belconnen and it provided insufficient evidence of demand.”