Page 2232 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 3 August 2016

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(d) 10 years on, we have a number of schools in those same areas now over capacity, no measurable benefits from the closures, students placed in temporary classrooms and parents scrambling to find places for their preschool children; and

(e) despite three Education Ministers holding the portfolio since Mr Barr, the problems continue; and

(2) calls on the Government to:

(a) acknowledge that many ACT schools are at or near capacity and need upgrade;

(b) clarify why it was considered necessary to change the methodology for calculating the definitions for measuring school space;

(c) commit to better communication with parents about school enrolment pressures; and

(d) commit to a genuine infrastructure upgrade plan and fund it appropriately.

Ten years ago, in 2006, the Canberra community was thrown into great turmoil when the then education minister, Andrew Barr, announced to a stunned community that the ACT Labor government intended to proceed to close a number of schools across Canberra. Perhaps inappropriately called towards 2020, the school closure plan was announced as part of the 2006-07 budget. The key feature of this rhetoric-laden work was the proposal to close 39 government schools and preschools and the amalgamation of others. After a notional six-month consultation period, education minister Barr announced the government’s decision to close 23 schools, including 11 primary schools and one high school, with a new P-10 school to be established on the old high school site. It was also decided to partially close four other primary schools and convert them from K-6 schools to P-2 schools with early childhood facilities. In addition, a number of preschools were closed.

That started the ongoing abuse of the ACT public school system at the hands of this government that has today led to a significant number of schools being at capacity, other schools with little room for expansion, old schools in need of upgrade and repair and newer schools left with a confined footprint and no opportunity to grow because of densification and the desperate need to make revenue from land sales.

History shows that the process was flawed, the basic premise on which the decisions were made was incorrect, and the outcome for some schools and families painfully disastrous. Today we are seeing the results of those bad decisions—decisions that could have avoided the difficulties the education system faces today, if only the government had listened to the community, had done its homework and had not tried to fudge the books.

When you look back at all the discussion about the school closures, there is a pattern that is as evident today as it was then. It appears that the government has learned nothing in the past 10 years. Ten years ago it took the community for granted, and a decade later it has just broadened and deepened that arrogance and inability to listen to community needs.

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