Page 3222 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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Forward planning of public schools is critical in order to respond to land release and urban infill programs. The Education and Training Directorate works with the Environment and Planning Directorate and the Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate to ensure availability of suitable land for new schools across the city. The directorate undertakes student enrolment projection modelling using information from land release data, sales data, birth data, occupation dwelling forecasts, school census and capacities data. Planning for a new or expanded public school requires approximately five years from evidence of the need for a new school to open. The directorate is assessing a number of potential new school sites, the majority in Gungahlin and Molonglo. They include Taylor, Denman Prospect, Eastlake, Kenny and Riverview.

A number of areas in the ACT are subject to urban infill, placing demand on existing public school infrastructure. Evidence of school enrolment pressure is analysed to determine likely trends and solutions. Those solutions explored include reducing out of area enrolments, adjusting the priority placement area boundary, planning for a temporary capacity increase, planning for medium-term capacity increase, planning for a permanent capacity increase, and changing the structure of the school.

In addition to the above analysis, the directorate has commenced a master planning process to capture local and regional information about education, training and childcare services. This process will help in future asset management and service delivery as well as inform decision-making on the effective and efficient use of public assets. Our schools are community hubs, and we need to make sure our planning systems and community attitudes are able to maintain the diversity and affordability of houses in our suburbs to ensure that schools remain viable community hubs.

In conclusion, schools are important to all our suburbs, which is why our established suburbs must continue to diversify and have the ability to provide housing for families of all ages. This is a topic of much thought for this government—how we make sure we enable our new suburbs to thrive and our established suburbs to grow and adapt over time so that schools can remain an essential part of our suburban mix. One thing is clear: this Labor government will always take the education of our children seriously, in particular, making the education of all children—no matter their background and no matter what part of the city they live in—as our number one priority.

MR DOSZPOT (Molonglo) (3.57): I thank Ms Fitzharris for bringing on this subject for debate today because it indicates that at least someone on the Labor benches understands we have a clear two-speed school category here in the ACT. I have to say that I see some irony in Ms Fitzharris bringing on this MPI. Ms Fitzharris identifies herself closely with Gungahlin, which has Canberra’s most modern, most advanced, most resourced school of all the ACT’s schools and colleges. I am pleased Ms Fitzharris is asking the Assembly to recognise the importance of modernising and strengthening schools in Canberra’s older suburbs. We on this side know only too well how schools in older and more established suburbs have been sacrificed in order to divert funds to other projects.

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