NSW Govt Conducted a War Against Small Rural Schools

The NSW Legislative Council report on the closure of public schools shows that the Department of Education conducted a war against small rural schools. Some 36 public schools have been closed under the Baird Government.

The following is a media release on the report by NSW Greens MP, John Kaye.

A NSW Upper House cross-party committee has unanimously called for a rethink on public school closures and how the Education Department treats local communities, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

The Committee’s report is being released as the Greens disclose that 36 public schools have been closed since the coalition came to power, which is 71 percent greater than in any four year period under the previous Labor government since 2001.

The Committee’s recommendations include keeping Martins Creek Public School open until 2019 and reform the Department’s closure procedures to deal honestly and in good faith with communities.

It also found that small school sizes can contribute positively to student and community outcomes.

Dr Kaye, who was a member of the Select Committee into Public School Closures, said: “The Coalition cannot say that what is happening to small schools across NSW is normal or a copy of what Labor did.

“A National Party Education Minister appears to have allowed his department to go to war against small schools and rural communities.

“Evidence reported to the Committee showed clearly that once a school was considered for closure it was doomed.

“In the last five years, only two of the schools that have gone into the review process have come out intact, while 36 have closed.

“More than half of the schools that closed in 2015 are to be sold off.

“To add insult to injury, parents have been treated appallingly.

“The Committee exposed the failure of the Department to act honestly when it had decided to close a school.

“Parents were allowed to believe that they were engaged in a genuine consultation process when in the mind of the Department the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

“This is the very opposite of quality public service.

“The Committee has told the Department that it has to act with honesty and good faith and tell the parents when a school is going to be closed.

“The Department’s handling of complaints from parents about the school closure process was found to be, at best, profoundly deficient.

“We unanimously found that there should be an independent audit of the response to complaints from parents at Wollombi and Martins Creek public schools.

“The Department is now on notice and the senior management should know that it is being closely watched.

“Each member of the Committee was moved to respond to the needs of one child with particular special needs at Martins Creek.

“Education Minister Adrian Piccoli should now respond to our unanimous recommendation and reverse his decision to close this public school before the student has graduated.

“The Liberal and National members of the Committee made the politically challenging but morally powerful decision to back the continuation of the school at least until 2019.

“It’s now up to Minister Piccoli to show the same level of compassion.

“Department head Michelle Bruniges insisted that school closure decisions were based entirely on protecting the educational interest of the students.

“The Committee accepted the evidence that challenges the allegation that small schools do not provide quality outcomes.

“The Baird government has lost a key excuse for closing small schools. From now on, the real motivation will be exposed as being purely economic.

“This has always been about a government that does not want to invest in rural and regional communities and that sees only real estate values when it looks at small schools,” Dr Kaye said.

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