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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2551..


MR SPEAKER: The Chief Minister's time has expired.

Schools—closures

MS MacDONALD: My question is to Mr Barr, the Minister for Education. Minister, could you inform the Assembly of the next steps in the consultation process on the government's proposed reforms to the public education system?

MR BARR: I thank Ms MacDonald for the question. As members would be aware, on 6 June the government announced a major proposal to reform our public education system to respond to a range of significant issues that I was able to highlight in my previous answer to Mrs Dunne's question. As part of this reform process the government is embarking on an extensive community consultation process. It is a process that I am genuinely committed to engage in constructively with the whole range of school communities: P&Cs, school boards and all members of the community who wish to engage on these issues.

I do not think there has been a consultation process on this scale undertaken before in the history of ACT self-government. In the time since the government's proposal was announced, my department and I have been involved in over 550 meetings with groups and representatives to discuss the proposal. A considerable number of these meetings are still to come. Last night, you, Mr Speaker, Ms MacDonald, Ms Porter and I attended a forum organised by the P&Cs to talk about the proposal. Representatives from about 17 school P&Cs spoke. I will continue to meet with individuals and communities throughout this consultation phase in order to discuss the proposal and the future of public education. I know that my colleagues on this side of the house will continue to engage constructively in this process.

Eight community forums have been held, one in each of the education regions. These meetings have been well attended and have provided members of the community with an opportunity to raise issues of concern and to raise particular questions around some of the proposals and, in many instances, to bring forward some very positive ideas and suggestions around how we can improve public education in the territory. They also provided an important opportunity for me as minister to listen to the views of the community, to take questions and to clarify issues of concern. I have invited the community to provide feedback on the proposal through a range of other forms. Obviously, there is a written submission process. To date, we have received more than 1,000 items of correspondence, and the community has been engaging very constructively in the process.

The department's Towards 2020 web site contains a range of information about the proposal, including advice on the impact on every school in the ACT. It also has detailed information on financial costings and enrolment data on schools proposed for closure or amalgamation. This site is regularly updated with further information as the consultation process progresses.

A phone line has been established so that parents and community members can speak directly to departmental officers on specific issues. I have also written to all school board chairs seeking their views, and similar letters have been provided to community groups.


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