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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 12 Hansard (21 November) . . Page.. 4129 ..

MS McRAE (continuing):

contrary to the announcements the Minister made before. The changes were made at Ngunnawal after the work on the estimates was done. It is a great pity that decisions that really should have been made a little more thoroughly are reviewed after the work on the estimates.

I was very concerned at the response in relation to policy issues and consultation, even more concerned at the responses within the Estimates Committee process itself, and still more concerned when I saw the Government's response. It is one of these typical responses where the Government has said, "Yes, we agree", but when you look at the actuality of the agreement it is rather a gilding of the lily to suggest that there is agreement. May I remind members that the committee recommended that a policy of consultation in regard to significant decisions should be developed. The Government's response claims that, prior to making significant decisions, the Department of Education and Training is committed to extensive consultative processes involving school communities. What a lot of nonsense!

When we came to the Estimates Committee hearings and asked about the changes that were being made in central office, nobody had been consulted. The teachers union was very upset about the changes that had been made. Quite inadequate answers were given on the shifts in professional support that were offered in the central office, and there was really no indication whatsoever that anybody had been consulted about it. That is why the Estimates Committee specifically asked that a policy be developed. The nonsense continues:

Where a significant issue impacts on schools the Department consults with the community through the School Board Forum, Parents and Citizen's Council, Principal's Associations and where appropriate individual school boards.

We asked for this policy to be developed with the clear intent that it be debated and spread around the place. As I pointed out yesterday in the adjournment debate, what we find with this much vaunted policy of significant changes being consulted on is that not many schools are very happy with the level of consultation about school-based management, as the letters that are starting to trickle in show. If there is a policy of consultation, it certainly was not clear during the questioning in the Estimates Committee process and it is certainly not made any clearer here. We specifically related the recommendation to the management of the closure of schools and the surprise twinning that happened in the last few months. We are told:

The Department has established a consultation process specifically to enable school communities facing declining enrolments to examine the issues and propose options to Government for maintaining quality education.

We are told, with no tongue in cheek or not any problem:

This process was used with the Stirling College and Charnwood High School communities.

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