Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1780 ..
MS GALLAGHER (continuing):
schools is sustainable. The government accepts that, consistent with this obligation, proponents of a new school should be required to demonstrate that a sufficient demand exists and that the school has the financial capacity to be viable. School registration processes will be strengthened to require this.
The government accepts in principle the recommendation concerning assessing the needs of students with disabilities. New arrangements for assessing the needs of students with disabilities, from both government and non-government schools, will be progressively introduced from this year. A joint working party of departmental and non-government school representatives will work through the details of new arrangements for non-government school students with a disability, for consideration by government.
The government also accepts a recommendation to engage the community in debate about rationalising the numbers of government schools. In accepting this recommendation, the government acknowledges that this is a complex matter. The government will honour its election commitment not to close a school without the specific support of the school's community. Consistent with this commitment, the community will, in line with current practice, be encouraged to continue to explore issues associated with enhancing the quality of education and educational resources.
Mr Speaker, the government has carefully considered what the Connors report has to say about closing the non-government schools interest subsidy scheme. The government accepts this recommendation and will close the scheme from 2003-2004. In reaching this decision, the government is persuaded that the interest subsidy scheme has served its purpose.
The ACT school population is declining, yet there is a continuing need to provide government schools in developing areas. The main recipients of the scheme over the next 15 years are non-government schools which, by any measure, would be regarded as well resourced. In the circumstances, continuing the scheme would not represent sound public funding policy.
The government agrees that, as funds from the scheme become progressively available, they will be applied to the benefit of non-government schools. The funds will be available to meet increases resulting from any new funding arrangements developed for non-government schools, including those for students with disabilities.
I want to thank Ms Connors for this report and for the considerable contribution she has made towards the education debate in the ACT. I also want to thank the members of the ACT community who participated so willingly in the inquiry. I commend the government response to members of the Legislative Assembly.
MR PRATT (8.09): I seek leave to speak on this.
MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, we will need a bit of time to properly analyse the report that has been tabled, and what has been discussed. At the outset, we are extremely concerned about, and very critical of, the fact that the government has now ceased the interest subsidy scheme. We think this will be extremely damaging to the ACT education system.