Page 3356 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 20 August 2008

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Of course, there are lots of things in the education systems that we can do better. We have chosen to focus our energies particularly on grades 4, 5 and 6 and lowering those class sizes. Absolutely it will improve educational outcomes. We do have quality teachers and we will back them up. We will back them up with smaller class sizes right through primary school. That will make a huge difference. The argument that has been put on this by the government, by the Labor Party, simply does not stand up to scrutiny. It does not make any sense. That is why we have not heard much from them in the last few weeks.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (3.49): Of course the Greens welcome investment in quality education. What a motherhood statement—the importance of building a better future for our children through investment in quality education. It would be very hard to stand up and disagree with that one. What, of course, we might do is have a different idea of what makes up quality education and what should be the priorities for investment, and it is not just about infrastructure.

One of the things that we have been concerned about is the loss of neighbourhood schools through the 2020 process. We are not just investing in our children’s education with schools like that; we are investing in whole communities. For instance, let us look at Hackett when its school was closed. I am not arguing whether it was a good or a bad thing that that school closed on educational grounds; I am just going to point out what happened to the shopping centre when the school closed. All these parts of a community work together as a fabric, so schools are really part of building communities. Not only that, their location is hugely important in terms of production of greenhouse gases. If you applied the greenhouse gas test to the 2020 plans, as I have said to Mr Barr a number of times, we probably would have had something that looked a little bit different from what he has come out with.

I believe some of those school closures were fundamentally wrong on educational as well as other grounds, and I refer most particularly to the closure of Flynn and Cook primary schools. While I welcome the early childhood schools, again, I do not believe that was well thought through. I will talk a little bit about the school that I know best, which is Narrabundah primary school. It is interesting to consider the schools that survived the 2020 process in terms of being reprieved at the end of it. How can anyone imagine Dickson college closing now? What kind of idea was that? Was someone flying a kite? That school has just gone from strength to strength, and it was always going to do that.

I believe Melrose primary school is another school that was verging on having a renaissance, and that there was a very strong community of people who would have ensured that that happened. I am talking about things that I do not believe that the minister and his advisers noticed in this case, which is the social capital which surrounds a school. In a sense—this is a rather sad thing to say—I believe the schools I have just listed as schools that should not have been closed and that should always have pathways to be reopened, are schools that had strong communities and strong, fighting parents.

It is rather sad that schools which closed and which did not have those sorts of communities might have been the ones whose students needed them to stay open most.

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