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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 1 Hansard (16 February) . . Page.. 142 ..

School Closures

MR CORBELL: My question is to the Minister for Education. Does the Minister agree that forcing young children to walk long distances to school away from their local neighbourhood is both unsafe and unwise? Does the Minister agree also that parent participation and local community involvement in schooling is facilitated by our system of neighbourhood schools and could be undermined by wholesale closure? What consultation has the Minister had with local school communities on the issue of school closures and his most recent comments?

MR STEFANIAK: I thank the member for the question. The member raises a couple of points which are arguments for having schools very close by. They are valid issues, Mr Speaker. All I have called for, as a result of the Productivity Commission figures, demographic figures that show that the situation is not going to change much, is a debate about this. I think it is high time we did that. All those factors are things that do need to be taken into account. As I said earlier to Mr Berry, a number of school communities have started talking about issues such as those. They are very relevant issues. There are a number of other relevant issues on the other side of that particular argument. They are all things that I think do need to be considered by our community.

Mr Corbell, I remind you that with our demographic projections, whilst in some areas in Canberra there will be an expanded need, there are a large number of other areas where the situation is not going to suddenly alter. In fact, we probably can expect a further slow decline in some areas. These are issues that need to be looked at. These are issues we need debate on, and that is something I will certainly call for as a result of the Productivity Commission report - nothing less, nothing more.

MR CORBELL: I ask a supplementary question. Can you give the Assembly an assurance that you will not use the same process to close schools as was used with the Charnwood High School and Spence Primary School, where you got the school boards to do your dirty work?

MR STEFANIAK: I think the Mount Rogers school community would take great exception to that. Quite clearly, in that most recent case a decision was made after quite lengthy consultation with the school community.

Mr Corbell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not mention Mount Rogers. I do not know what the Minister - - -

MR STEFANIAK: The member said Spence. Quite clearly, that relates to the Spence campus of the Mount Rogers school. That decision was taken after extensive consultation and very effective consultation and after a very detailed process by that particular school community.

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