Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 2 April 2008) . . Page.. 839 ..
Closing schools is always going to be traumatic and face strong opposition. There will be times when it is necessary. I believe that Mr Stefaniak presided over some of that when he was the minister for education. But these decisions must be made on practical grounds in an open and clear process. I have little doubt that the closures announced in 2006 have had a massive impact on the community. (Time expired.)
MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Health, Minister for Children and Young People, Minister for Disability and Community Services, Minister for Women) (11.50): Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the amendment circulated by the minister for education, Andrew Barr. I feel that, as the minister for education when we first started this investment of renewal in education infrastructure in the ACT, it is appropriate that we go back and have a look at some of the work that was done prior to 2020 and the situation which the government was faced with at the time.
It is easy to forget, I think, the reality of the state of government school infrastructure that the government began analysing, particularly after the 2004 election. Really, it started not long after the election. On 30 November, as part of my visits to schools as minister for education, I visited the Ginninderra district high school, I think for the first time but it could have been the second. Two things, I think, were clear to me on that visit. One was the fantastic teaching environment or the culture of teaching the close-knit students within that school. The second was the terrible state of the school at the time. I think more than half of the school was closed in some way and not being used at all by the students.
From memory, there were about 180 students at that school. I think year 10 was the biggest year; I think 60 of the students were in year 10, which left 120 over the other three years of the school. It was at that time that I started considering a major upgrade to that school. I walked around the school with the school principal, who was clearly distressed about the state of the teaching environment that she was having to provide for the students.
Not long after that visit, the Chief Minister visited that school as part of his general round of school visits and he and I spoke after that tour, after his visit and after mine. We were both clearly concerned at the state of the school, the infrastructure and the facilities. We spoke about the enrolment decline at the school, which had been considerable and was continuing. I think over 70 per cent of the local school enrolments were avoiding that school; they were actually taking the very clear decision to go a public school outside that area. In fact, Belconnen high and Canberra high, from memory, were the schools that were taking all the overflow. There was a conscious decision in those suburbs for parents and students not to attend that school. When I toured that school, I could not think of any reason other than the state of those school facilities as the major reason for the decline.
In February, I think, on my return from leave, I discussed the issue of Ginninderra district high with the Chief Minister. We spoke about the possibility of looking at a new school for that site. It was clear that a major redevelopment would not have assisted with the overall issues to any great degree and that really the way forward was the single biggest investment in school infrastructure in the ACT’s history, to build a state-of-the-art, brand new school in west Belconnen for the people of west