Page 3124 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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We could have had a number of options with pros and cons for current students. For example, a decision to build a new school could have been subject to an agreement that current students complete their schooling at Ginninderra high, which would delay the building of the new school by up to four years, or it might have been subject to a guarantee that students would be accepted into a school of their choice. If they had been given all the information on the options the students could have given the government a proposal that we might not have thought of which might have been better.

I am not sure that the business community is a major stakeholder—this is from Mrs Dunne’s motion. I think it is important that consultation happens with the students, the parents and members of the community. I support the second part of Mrs Dunne’s motion. I think it is absolutely essential that the government table the advice that led to its decision. I think that advice should be shared with the school community. Proper consultation is absolutely necessary. The government should be prepared to change its decision after it has engaged in this six months of consultation but we have not seen any evidence that it will do that. That is what good consultation does; it informs government practice.

It is a pity, I think, that the Australian Education Union has firmly lined up with the government and is vigorously defending the virtues of the superschool. Perhaps it was involved from an early stage, unlike the parents and citizens association, which appears to have been left out of the process. I think the AEU’s stance has the effect of silencing teachers who might have a different opinion for pedagogical reasons or for other reasons—pastoral care, for instance. Representatives of the students of Ginninderra high are also in a difficult position. It concerns me that they have not been supported to have a strong voice in this debate.

MR STANHOPE (Ginninderra—Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Arts, Heritage and Indigenous Affairs) (11.18): I am very pleased to be able to participate in this debate to acknowledge the significance of the investment in education that is anticipated through this development. The point was well made by the minister that this is the first time since self-government that an ACT government has taken a decision of this magnitude in relation to investment or reinvestment in public education in the ACT. It is innovative and challenging to the extent that it reflects change. Change is often difficult to deal with and does present challenges. Certainly where children are involved in change it presents particular challenges and additional sensitivities. The government is aware of those sensitivities and has responded, I believe, absolutely to them.

We are, of course, acutely conscious of the impact of dislocation and the sense of loss students at a school will feel, with the challenge of making their way in a new school and the impact that will have on their friendship groups and on the routine they have come to accept and feel will perhaps be part of their lives for a few additional years. Knowing that impact and the policy implications of decisions such as this one to close a school within Canberra the government nevertheless grasped the opportunity to provide unequalled learning opportunities for children in the whole of Belconnen through the development of a state-of-the-art major new multi-campus school in west Belconnen.

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