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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 04 Hansard (Thursday, 22 April 2021) . . Page.. 1068 ..

Schools—St Bede’s Primary School

MR HANSON: My question is to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. Minister, although no decisions have been made, the future of St Bede’s Catholic Primary School in Red Hill is uncertain and there are reports that it may close in the next few years. Whilst the Catholic Education Office has said that, should that eventuate, any students would be offered places at Catholic schools elsewhere in the inner south and in Woden, some families may wish to remain in the inner south at public schools. Minister, what actions will you take, or have you taken, to support St Bede’s to remain open?

MS BERRY: Matters regarding the future operations of Catholic schools in the ACT are matters for the Catholic Education Office. However, I do understand that our school communities, regardless of whether they are in private or public government-run schools, are very connected within their schools and that school communities do want to make sure that their schools remain open. That is the case at St Bede’s, as well. I saw that there were several hundred people that attended their town hall meeting. I met with the St Bede’s parents before that town hall meeting just to reassure them on positions in schools for their students—should it be a decision by the Catholic Education Office to close that school, those students would have a place in their local public school. We will continue to work with those parents, reassuring them that they will have a place should they need it, should that be the decision of the Catholic Education Office. I have also offered to meet with the Catholic Education Office and the St Bede’s parent communities just to understand the decision making of the Catholic Education Office and how we can support those individuals.

MR HANSON: I have a supplementary question. Minister, what discussions have you had to date? I know you have said you will meet, but what discussions have you had to date, if any, about St Bede’s with the CEO and about funding for Catholic schools more generally?

MS BERRY: I have met with the school parents, as I said, this week. I was informed at the same time the board of St Bede’s was informed, by the Catholic Education Office that they were considering the future of that school. Catholic schools are funded based on the Gonski needs-based model implemented in legislation by the federal coalition government. The ACT government meets its requirements as far as funding for Catholic education in the ACT. The funding goes to the Catholic Education Office and then the Catholic Education Office allocates that funding to each individual Catholic school. The ACT government is not part of that decision making. As I said, those are decisions for the Catholic Education Office. Under the last two elections, the ACT government has also committed to $15 million of infrastructure support funding for non-government schools, based on needs. So, we meet our requirements under the SRS funding model legislated by the federal government. We are the minority funder of non-government schools with the federal government being the majority funder.

I also understand that Catholic schools have received several millions of dollars in additional funding from the federal government to support them during the transition

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