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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 10 Hansard (4 September) . . Page.. 3048 ..

School Without Walls

MS McRAE: Mr Speaker, my question is to Mr Stefaniak in his capacity as Minister for Education. Mr Stefaniak, in the review of SWOW this was noted:

There was overwhelming support to retain the present location because of its proximity to Civic. Some students claim that a move to another location will cause hardship because of extra bus fares. The suggestion of relocation was also opposed on the grounds that the loss of independence would undermine the entire concept of self-regulating learning community. Staff and students do not believe that the SWOW mode of operation is compatible with that of a mainstream high school or college. They value their autonomy and see it as an essential component of the alternative school philosophy. A number of students indicated that, in the event of relocation at another school or college, they would probably drop out of school altogether.

Minister, why is SWOW going to be moved to Dickson, when the students and parents interviewed expressed such a strong desire to stay at Braddon?

MR STEFANIAK: Mr Speaker, I think the people opposite really live in a cocoon and just want everything to remain exactly the same. This has come up time and time again during these sittings. The fact is that things do change. Demography changes and numbers of students change. SWOW has changed considerably since its inception. The original idea was in 1973 and its inception was in 1974. That is a fact of life. Canberra has been changing over the years.

Mr Speaker, this Government is not about to do away with an important avenue of education. We are not about to remove programs for students who feel they are better off with an alternative to the regular mainstream high school. This Government does value very highly the opportunity for choices to be made. This applies to parents and students in their choice of schooling, and we will be maintaining a viable and effective alternative education program. What we are going to do, Mr Speaker, is increase this choice in a real and practical way because, as well as establishing an alternative high school program on the north side of Canberra, we are planning for a similar program on the south side. That should improve opportunities for young people, especially those of high school age, especially Years 8 to 10, and for alternative programs.

Arrangements have also been in hand for the formation of a steering committee to oversight the establishment of an alternative high school program to be located on the north side at Dickson College and commencing next year. That committee will also subsequently plan for a similar program to be located on the south side of Canberra. Expressions of interest will be sought from southside secondary schools in incorporating an alternative high school on a suitable campus. That committee will consist of experienced and knowledgeable educators, administrators and people who understand alternative approaches to educating students of high school age. The steering committee

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