Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3842 ..
MS McRAE (10.52): Mr Speaker, I move:
That this Assembly asks the Minister for Education and Training to permit any school or college to phase in the introduction of School Based Management so that it is operative in all schools or colleges from term 2 in 1997 rather than the beginning of the 1997 school year.
This motion specifically calls on the Minister to allow some schools to opt out for the time being, and only for the time being, of the extended school-based management process that is going on at the moment. The Minister has begun a very thorough process of training and implementation; each school is involved; and this is in no way intended to be a criticism of what the Minister has begun. It is in response to a call for help that I have had from many small schools - probably the Minister has had these calls as well - where student numbers are such that the schools do not have a deputy principal, in particular. It meant that the training processes had to be undertaken by the principal and the bursar, which has put schools under enormous strain. The registrar, the bursar or the other office attendant has been called out as well as the principal. Very often a sufficient level of training has not been had or they have felt very rushed.
The request that has been put to me is this: Is there a possibility that some schools - not all; and not many, for all that - could be allowed to wait for another term before they actually begin the process? This is a testing of that question. From my experience, at this point it is very much to do with small primary schools. I have not had a direct request from any other school at the moment, but I did believe that it was important to leave in the full range of schools in case other schools chose to opt out. It is a motion that allows the Minister discretion. The schools, via the officials, would have to approach the Minister himself and plead a case, essentially, for not undertaking to begin the extended school-based management process in 1997.
The process of training had to be rushed. There had been a much more extended program planned, but the difficulties that assailed schools this year, with the dispute over pay rises, made that process very difficult to implement. From my experience, the strain on the small schools has been echoed by others as well, in that many which have participated in the training program feel uncomfortable and feel that they are not fully aware of the range of new responsibilities being placed on them. Again, that is not through lack of information. Some of the information needs reinterpretation and verification; it needs people to follow up on detail and to make sure that they understand.
I know that the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations has put its own reservations and concerns, and the Minister will be well aware of those. Those concerns have to do with the levels of responsibility and liabilities for different people. Those different people are members of the school board versus the school principal, versus teachers, versus volunteers, versus non-school teaching staff of the schools.