Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3934..
MR BARR (continuing):
ACT has the lowest recorded fertility rate of any state or territory, and has had for more than a decade. If you look at the February census for 2007, and look at the age cohorts as they go through, next years year 12 will have around 5,000 students. The cohort that comes in in kindergarten this year is 4,198, across all schools. We have fewer school age children in the ACT. We do not need as many schools as we did when the system was set up through the seventies and eighties.
We have areas of growth where we need to provide new schools—undoubtedly in Gungahlin—but we have other areas of the city where there is a dramatic reversal in the demographics, most particularly in the northern part of Tuggeranong and in the suburb of Kambah. It is important, therefore, that in responding to that the government invests in new education infrastructure in that area. We recognise that we do not need four government primary schools and a government high school in the suburb of Kambah. The future needs of that suburb will be met by a new $54 million P-10 school on the site of the current Kambah high, and Taylor primary school in the northern part of that suburb, together with the Village Creek, Mount Neighbour, Urambi and Taylor preschools; so there will be four preschools. Incorporating that preschool provision into the new P-10 school, plus Taylor, will meet the ongoing demographic needs and provide a viable school community for the suburb of Kambah.
It is interesting to reflect on the words of the late Rosemary Richards, an Australian Education Union stalwart and someone who taught in the ACT system for 30 years and was involved in a number of these debates. I quote from an article that she published in, I believe, the AEU Journal and that also made it into the Canberra Times:
Parents need to be aware of the nature of school resources if no intervention is made. Without the staff and other subsidies and millions spent on school buildings with very small populations, these schools will short change their students in a range of ways ...
Proper use of available resources is of great concern to all teachers and their union. Unfortunately size is a factor in this debate, and small schools, in particular small secondary schools, are currently subsidized from a struggling education budget to ensure students get proper access to courses and resources that could be better shared ...
But thirty years on, we have some serious challenges in achieving equality. Do we as a community understand what it means to provide the latest teaching and learning technology for all our students? High quality teaching and learning are only possible in a well led, well resourced educational environment. We need healthy, flexible, and well maintained buildings with supportive, involved parents; teachers who are professionally supported both with development opportunities and strong leadership from their Principal and the Department and access to regularly updated information technology for all students and staff.
Educators, keenly aware of the needs of schools, are concerned about how the ACT community will fund these essential resources for our young people. We know that many private schools have large populations with excellent resources. To ensure a viable public school system, we must all work to ensure that government schools can provide the same quality uniformly across Canberra; this may mean making some difficult decisions about some 'sacred cows' in