The peak public education advisory body to the ACT Government has expressed alarm at the extent and impact of school closures proposed in the Towards 2020 Plan. It has also indicated its grave concern about the impact of the Budget on equity in education.
In a response to the Education Budget, the Government Schools Education Council has said that the Budget will clearly exacerbate inequity in the ACT, undermine the Canberra Social Plan, restrict access to higher performance, and affect the quality of educational provision. It expressed its alarm at the extent and impact of the school closures proposed, the extent of head office cuts and their effects, and the extent of the reductions proposed to the teaching force.
The Council also expressed its concern to the Minister that the Council’s recommendations for the Budget had been disregarded by the Government. Its recommendations had been for additional expenditure in some areas of greatest need, including:
- engagement of students in the high school/middle school years;
- improving the low academic achievement among students with poor literacy skills (especially beyond Year 4 and including the high school/ college sectors);
- increased provision for the welfare of at-risk students;
- increased provision for students with special needs; and
- programs/initiatives to meet the professional needs of teachers at preschool, primary, secondary and college levels.
The Council also noted that the Minister for Education has not explained the educational principles on which the proposed changes are based and that they appear to be based solely on economic rationalism. It requested the Minister to explain the reasons for the rejection of its advice on its 2006 budget recommendations and to outline the educational principles on which the proposed changes are based.
The Government Schools Education Council is chaired by Professor Eddie Braggett.
The Council’s response to the Education Budget was tabled in the Legislative Assembly by the Minister for Education on the last day of the August session and in the middle of the hectic schedule of debate on the Budget appropriations. The Minister clearly intended to avoid public debate on this damning report on the Education Budget.