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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1999 ..

MRS CARNELL (continuing):

If that is not an option, and it is certainly not, their other option is to amend the budget. If they want to add $250,000 to the bottom line and they can get the numbers in this place, go for it, because it will be borrowed. It will go on the Territory debt for a straight political stunt, and what will it achieve? We will borrow $250,000, we will pay interest on it, we will end up with an ongoing debt, and at the end of 12 months what will the situation be? It will be exactly what it is this year, and exactly what it was the year before. For the last six years we have seen declining enrolments at Charnwood. It is disappointing, but it is part of the whole education cycle of every city in this country that has anything like the education system that we have. Schools have declining enrolments as demographics change. In a planned city like Canberra the problem is so much worse simply because suburbs were built at the same time. So we end up with very definite demographic changes that predominantly affect our high schools and our primary schools. Of course, as we are seeing with Stirling College, it can affect colleges as well.

How small are we willing to allow schools to become? I think Ms McRae made some comment about how Charnwood High School was absolutely essential to the lifeblood of the community; where would people meet; where would they say hello to each other - all of this sort of thing. We agree that schools are absolutely essential to local areas, but how small are we willing to let them become? Fifty? Twenty-five? One hundred? When do we say that we are no longer willing to let quality education suffer in this city; to allow children at Charnwood to be given fewer educational options than children at other high schools around this city? When are we going to say that we are not willing to allow class sizes to become unacceptably high at other schools so that we can supplement? Even with that level of supplementation, we still will not be able to give quite the educational breadth and depth that we would like to make sure is available at all of our high schools. That is the issue here. No. 1, it is quality education. No. 2, it is about working with the school and with the community to come up with a solution that does not lose what is uniquely Charnwood High, that does not lose the school community; a solution that allows them to decide whether an amalgamation is the way to go.

Amalgamation has worked very well at Stromlo. It has managed to allow the essence of the Holder High School community to be maintained. If that is what the school community wants, we should be supporting them on that. We will be supporting the school community on issues such as transport in the transition period. We will be supporting them on all of those sorts of things. To continue to supplement, Mr Speaker, to continue to give $250,000 a year in order to maintain a situation that is continuing to decline, a situation that ensures that the young people at Charnwood will have ever-decreasing educational options, or alternatively that every other kid or every other student in this city has decreasing educational options, larger class sizes and fewer resources, is simply not an option. If those opposite are serious, let them amend the budget, increase the Territory debt, and accept that what they will be doing is not just for one year but for every year; and for what?

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