ACT Department of Education documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation confirm Save Our Schools research that the least-well off communities in Canberra will be hardest hit by school closures.
A Department information paper on changing demography in the ACT makes the following statement:
In general, the schools experiencing relatively low enrolment levels are also those schools that are located in areas with lower socio-economic profiles and are invariably the smaller schools in terms of enrolment. By implication, the smaller schools are those that are more acutely required to be locally accessible to serve the social and educational needs of the local residents.
The paper also shows that poor households in the ACT spend more each week on housing and transport than poor households generally in Australia. School closures will exacerbate the financial pressure on disadvantaged families because they will have to spend even more on transport in order to access a school outside their suburb.
Another Education Department document on factors impacting on the provision of ACT schooling notes that there are pockets of the ACT that have relatively low socio-economic profiles and that many schools with low enrolments are in these areas. It says that some small schools should always be retained, due to geographic and/or socio-economic factors, even though their per-student costs may be higher than in other areas.
The Stanhope Government is ignoring the impact of school closures on the least well-off families in Canberra, despite being advised of this by the Department of Education.
The failure of the Government to consider the needs of families on low incomes makes a mockery of Government rhetoric supporting improved equity and social justice. It demonstrates the lack of commitment of the Stanhope Government to its own Social Plan, released with much fanfare and hype only two years ago.
The Chief Minister and the Minister for Education should give a public guarantee that the needs of low income families will be fully considered before deciding whether any school should close.