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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1083 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

closed the school, the same as they say about the Spence school. The high school was closed by the Government by withdrawing funds from it. It was therefore not able to proceed and was forced to close the doors. That school was a successful school. The community said that they wanted to keep the school open. Two hundred and fifty people attended a public meeting and said, "Do not close the school" - Charnwood High School.

Mr Humphries: Griffith school?

MR BERRY: The Minister ignored them. He closed the school. It was his decision to close the school, nobody else's. Schools are only closed by Ministers, not school boards. They might act on the recommendations of school boards, but you cannot keep hiding behind school boards. That suburb will never have a high school again. Neither will Dunlop as it develops. The school was kept open in the first place to cater for the growing suburbs west of Charnwood.

It is not a matter of Labor being opposed to school closures per se. In fact, we have a very clear position in relation to schools. I will read to you from our platform. We will:

Ensure that any amalgamation of schools takes place after a process of open and early consultation which involves the local and regional communities.

That is where we differ a great deal from the Liberals opposite. Our platform also states:

The consultation process should consider agreed demographic projections, the unique characteristics of particular schools, the impact of closure on local neighbourhood networks and the delivery of an acceptable educational program.

Closing a school just because of the distance one has to travel loses sight of many of the real problems that face families in suburbs. Mr Hird paid no regard to the social circumstances of the particular demographics of a suburb. In certain circumstances examination of a small school could result in the need for that small school to continue because of the social circumstances of the community. I did not hear him mention that. All I heard him mention time after time was how justifiable it can be to close a school. Never did I hear Mr Hird talk about the quality of education that the school system delivers.

The success of a school system is based, to a large part, on access, and that is an important feature to preserve. It is not simply a matter of dollars. Ever since this Minister from the Liberals announced his interest in the number of spare spaces in schools, we have had this focus on empty spaces in schools instead of a focus on quality education. We have to switch the focus back to quality education. Let us look at another school in your electorate that was closed by your Minister, your colleague. It is in his electorate as well - Spence school.

Mr Hird: Amalgamated.

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