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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1984 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

The allocation this year was increased in line with inflation. I am spelling this out, Mr Speaker, so that everyone can clearly see that spending on education is being maintained in real terms. That is what we promised in the run-up to the election, and that is exactly what we are delivering.

Everyone knows that the overall ACT financial position is such that our finances must be managed carefully. Everyone also knows that the people of the ACT expect a very high level of services from government organisations. This does not mean that this Government has agreed to keep every aspect of every education program exactly as it was last year or the year before. That would be patently foolish. Obviously, our government school system has to change and its programs have to be modified to meet emerging priorities. We do need to spend our education dollar where it is most needed. The education budget is not a magic pudding which will grow and grow to meet every conceivable single demand made on it. I suppose the decline in enrolments in Charnwood High School is very much a case in point.

Mr Berry: What a weak excuse - $125,000.

MR STEFANIAK: It is probably a bit more than that, Mr Berry. Really, Mr Speaker, as members of that Charnwood consultative committee themselves said, continued supplementation is simply not an option. Just how far are we meant to go? We need to look at other options, and we need to look at what is the best possible education outcome for these kids.

Mr Speaker, I can feel, and the Government can feel, for the stress that some people are feeling at the moment, but we need to look calmly at the issues. It is a trying time for the community. These things are never pleasant. If you look calmly at them and if you look at what has happened in the past, there are a number of options. Indeed, just carrying on is an option for the school. If they can do that, great; but I come back to the point that we cannot keep supplementing forever, and we still have time this year to consider the situation. We have time to come up with the best educational option possible for the high school age students in Charnwood, Flynn and Fraser. At the same time, we cannot look at this issue in isolation. We need to consider the rights of all young people in the ACT to a quality education. It really is not sensible, nor is it equitable to the people who matter most, our children, and in this case our children at Charnwood High School, to apply bandaids where a more general, rational and sensible approach is required.

MS HORODNY (11.06): Mr Speaker, 16 years ago the Government sought to close Narrabundah College. It had declining enrolments and at the time had under 400 students. The Government at the time said that the school would die a slow and natural death; that people were moving out of the area and that it must be closed. Staff, students, parents and the whole community mounted a highly political campaign. They petitioned and they protested, and after months of heavy-handed talk by the bureaucracy and the Government the school was allowed to remain open. It is now one of the most vibrant and diverse colleges in the ACT system, with over 900 students and a range of programs that many consider second to none in Australia.

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