Page 3537 - Week 11 - Thursday, 22 September 2005

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government determined to close and demolish Ginninderra district high school and replace it with a 1,500-student school. The government simply announced that that was what it was going to do and, after announcing it, it then had a consultation period. Wouldn’t it be better to do it the other way round? It is what is called in the military—Mr Pratt will certainly appreciate this—situating the appreciation. You work out first what you want to do and then you try to justify it later and work out where you get to your original decision. It is putting the cart before the horse.

Mrs Dunne wants to look at the educational research that underpins the government’s decision. As we have seen from the debate since the government made its decision, not everyone thinks that this proposal is necessarily the best educational outcome for west Belconnen. It is one of a number of possibilities. It may be a very good outcome, but people have big concerns about it. An inquiry would give them a proper chance to look at the various views in terms of what is best for the area.

There is then the feasibility of the project, including the demographic support for a school of 1,500 students. I must admit that I have some concerns about that, living in the area. I know that there will be some new houses going into a part of Macgregor. Dunlop seems to be pretty well full. There might well be some new houses going into some other areas. But are we actually going to have the student numbers there to make this proposal viable? What will happen if the proposal falls short of the target of 1,500 students? I think that those issues need to be canvassed before the government actually goes in and does the job with this new superschool. How can the government be confident that these 1,500 students will eventuate in the area in which, Mr Speaker, you and I live?

There is then the effect on educational choice in Belconnen, which probably flows into the impact on other schools in Belconnen. Which other schools are going to close? We know already that Higgins primary and Holt primary will close as a result of the construction of this superschool. They will be part of it. But what about Macgregor primary? What about Latham primary? What is going to happen to Melba high school? There are a number of schools potentially facing some significant ramifications from having this superschool there. Obviously, that in itself will have an effect on Belconnen families. It is obvious that it will even have an effect on the students in the catchment area who might go to this superschool, assuming that none of the other schools closes.

How about the likely ramifications for government schooling elsewhere in the ACT? Mention has been made of Amaroo. The government trumpets Amaroo as a wonderful model, and it is an excellent school. But there are other areas in the ACT where similar schools might be set up by the government. What effect is that going to have on the local communities and on other schools in those areas. Do we necessarily want to have a situation where we have a small number, maybe not too many, of superschools in the ACT and very few other schools?

I have been to both of these meetings and talked to parents there. A lot of them have said, “We don’t think big fits all. We like the idea of a smaller school. We like the more personal attention the students get. We fear that kids might get lost in a bigger school.” No matter how good your staff, how good your methodology and how good perhaps the buildings are, that is a logical argument. That is a distinct possibility. Some students are better suited to other types of educational institutions.

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