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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 2002 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

One of the reasons why the options have come down to that, I believe, is that the committee that looked at it very carefully took into account the impact that one of the options that had been flagged - the K to Year 10 school - would have, for example, on Charnwood, Flynn and Fraser primary schools - the feeder primary schools for this high school. They had taken into account that kind of issue. They came back and said, really, that there were only two options. The choice that they took back to their community last night was, basically, the option to close that school, or that campus, if you want to see it that way. The community reacted as one would expect. They said, "There must be something we can do". Mr Berry and Ms McRae said, "Perhaps there is something we can do. Perhaps we can reverse this decision in the Assembly". That was an entirely appropriate thing to say. It was entirely appropriate to give it a try - to see whether that could be done and whether more resources could be put into the school to give them a longer time to try to achieve that.

So it comes down to the 17 members who sit on these benches. What are we going to do? Are we going to say, "Yes, they need another year and that may well turn things around."? Suggestions that I have heard include a total change of approach, a change of name, some support, and perhaps advertising other methods aimed at finding ways to turn that school around. Ms McRae ran through a few of those this morning. Small schools can work. Small schools that have very strong teacher morale, a very strong approach from their staff, can work.

There would be a problem in this particular school because, under the present formula, there is likely to be a loss, according to the board chair on radio this morning, of five teachers - 21/2 from the supplementation and 21/2 through the formula because there is a reduction in numbers. When any school loses something like five teachers, the impact on teacher morale is significant in a relatively small staff. It simply means that there is going to be a great deal more work for teachers to do, such as supervision, preparation of curriculum, class work, and a whole range of things. In fact, the board chair this morning on radio suggested that the principal would be teaching. I do not think that is a bad thing, by the way. I have worked in many schools where the principal taught at least one class. I think it actually helped principals to keep in contact with the students. He also went on to say that they would lose a deputy principal, so part of the administrative load of that school would land back on a principal who is also required to teach, and there would be more administration loaded onto the teachers. Under those circumstances, is it likely that there would be an increase in teacher morale? Having taught for 17 years, I would think that the chance of getting a high teacher morale under those circumstances would be very low.

The real issue that we are dealing with today, Mr Speaker, is: What is going to be best for the students at that school, some of whom are with us today? Let us take a long-term view and consider not just the students who are with us today, but also the 30 or 40 students who would enrol in Year 7 next year. What happens to them? Mr Speaker, I do not think it looks good. If there is a low teacher morale, and if the numbers are declining, I cannot see how there will be a strong positive atmosphere in that school. Let me emphasise, Mr Speaker, that I have taught in a range of schools. I have taught in schools of 3,000 students; I have taught in schools of 1,200, 800 and 250. There were K to Year 12 schools.

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