Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 10 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 August 2005) . . Page.. 3129 ..
Schools with declining enrolments—Copy of guidelines prepared by the Department of Education and Community Services.
That was used very effectively by a number of schools, in particular by Spence primary and Melba primary. They spent a 12-month period of consultation within their school community to close the Spence site, which ultimately happened, and merge on the Melba site. It was a difficult decision but because it actively involved the school community, who I think approached the department halfway through. At the end of the day, that decision was announced. I think there were six people who were upset by it out of a community of about 250. When it happened I probably could have named them. They got over it but the decision was taken; the community had ownership of that.
As a result of that paper similar processes were started with several other primary schools. Wanniassa primary school—a K to 10 school on the other side of the oval—went into a K to 10 arrangement with the high school. There were several other schools which almost got to that stage but the school community said, “No, we like it how it is.” Those schools are still there today. There was a genuine consultation process. I think the minister might have said that the Liberal Party took to the last election a policy of closing schools. She had better check that again because there would be consultations if mergers looked like being required. It was hardly a policy of closing schools. I note that the current government seems to have a policy not to close schools during the process of government. They now have this fait accompli on the table. Maybe the minister is starting to back off a bit; I think she needs to, and I think she needs to take the school communities along with her.
There are a number of issues here. One could perhaps query whether the figures in this megaschool are going to be correct; whether there will be 500 or 600 people in the high school component and whether there will be 500 in the middle school from year 6 to year 8. There are obvious concerns in relation to the proposal that would close down Ginninderra district high school now. Other members have talked about other obvious concerns such as what happens to the students in the interim and what happens to Holt primary and Higgins primary. I know they are worried at both McGregor primary school and Melba high school. These are the sorts of issues that should have been discussed and thrashed out in a proper consultation period before the government lumbered the community with basically a fait accompli. The government needs to seriously rethink this and it needs to act in concert with the school community. I encourage members to support Mrs Dunne’s motion.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (11.38): I am very pleased to stand today to speak in favour of the government’s proposal for west Belconnen. In doing so I obviously support the amendment moved by Ms Gallagher. This proposal is a significant one for the west Belconnen community. This is not a government that has said to the community of west Belconnen, “Your schools are in decline; your enrolments are falling; you are going to have to think about closing a school” and that is the end of the discussion. That is what the Liberal Party did when they were in government. When Charnwood high saw declining enrolments they went to the community and said, “Your school is in decline; your enrolments are dropping; you need to think about closure.” Did they offer an alternative? Did they talk about investing