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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 4598 ..

MR HIRD (continuing):

A steering committee is in place to oversee the establishment of an alternative high school program to be located at Dickson College and to commence at the beginning of the 1997 school year. The steering committee consists of experienced and knowledgeable educators, administrators and people who understand alternative approaches to educating students of high school age. The steering committee is chaired by the Director of Schools, Northside, and its members include an experienced alternative educator, the principal, the board chair, a teacher observer and a student from Dickson College. The current SWOW board chair and a current student, a teacher and a parent observer of SWOW are also members of the steering committee. In addition, the steering committee will be able to coopt persons with relevant expertise and understanding to assist them in their task.

A working group headed by the Southside Director of Schools has been formed to investigate an alternative high school program for the southern districts. Its membership includes high school principals and representatives of Youth Connection and the AEU. This school is not closing but expanding. A Level 2 executive teaching position has been established for term 4 to work exclusively on curriculum and educational arrangements for the alternative high school program. The task of the executive teacher will be to develop an educational blueprint for the establishment of the new program. In close cooperation with the steering committee, the planning teacher will develop the framework necessary for the creation of a viable and exciting program which caters for students who are unsuited to mainstream schooling.

I do not believe that the Minister or the department are turning their backs on the needs of the parents, the teachers or the students of SWOW. However, I do agree that we as a community have a responsibility for what is known as the duty of care. In order to make myself more in tune with the needs of SWOW and also with what had been indicated to my learned colleagues - that there was a problem with the relocation of SWOW to the Dickson College - I joined with them and was pleasantly surprised with the warm approach taken by the principal and staff of Dickson College and the lengths to which they were going to find accommodation for these students.

I also made myself aware of the duty of care statement at the existing SWOW location. I was met by the principal or the coordinator, the person responsible for the day-to-day running of the school and the needs of the students at that educational institution. I must say that when I asked how many students were actually under the care of that person I was shocked to find that an answer was not readily available. He could not readily tell me how many students were there or were not there. This can be verified very easily by an unfortunate recent incident at another school within our system where a student went missing and drowned. The need to know where students are is paramount. Not only the teachers need to know where students are. Parents and the community need to know. The duty of care stops squarely with my colleague the Minister, Mr Stefaniak, as he has said. I commend the Minister for his approach to this statement about the duty of care.

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