SOS Welcomes Government Back-Flip on Small Schools

Save Our Schools today congratulated the ACT Government on its new-found commitment to small schools.

SOS convenor, Trevor Cobbold, welcomed the Government back-flip but said that it warranted an inquiry into past school closures by the Legislative Assembly.

“In a dramatic turn-around, the ACT Government has recognised the important contribution of small schools to ACT education, with enthusiastic support being rightly offered to the P-2 schools of Isabella Plains, Lyons, Narrabundah and Southern Cross,” Mr Cobbold said.

“It is ironic that these schools so enthusiastically supported by the ACT Education Minister, Andrew Barr, will be smaller than most of the 11 primary schools closed as part of Towards 2020. The average size of the closed primary schools was 130 students when their closure was first announced.

“In contrast, Isabella Plains looks like being the largest of the P-2 schools, yet it had 107 P-2 students in August 2008. The next largest was Southern Cross with 90 P-2 students last year. Prospective pre-school enrolments for both schools in 2009 are down on last year. The P-2 schools will also be much smaller than they would have been as K-6 schools.”

Mr Cobbold said that many parents in schools closed over the past three years will be stunned at the Minister’s back-flip.

“Hundreds of families had their lives disrupted by the closure of their neighbourhood school, incurring increased travel costs and increased safety risks for their children travelling to and from more distant schools. Low income parents are bearing the brunt of the burden.

“All this was done on the basis of unsubstantiated assertions that small schools offer a lesser education, contrary to research evidence, and that they are too expensive.”

Mr. Cobbold called on the Legislative Assembly to review the Towards 2020 school closures.

“In the light of the Minister’s new-found enthusiasm for small schools, it is incumbent on the Legislative Assembly to give communities an opportunity to re-establish their school. The Education Committee of the Assembly should immediately announce an inquiry.”

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