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School closures report 'doesn't go far enough'

Posted September 18, 2009 08:01:00
Updated September 18, 2009 09:29:00

Ruled out: Andrew Barr says he will not reopen the Tharwa and Hall schools.

Ruled out: Andrew Barr says he will not reopen the Tharwa and Hall schools. (ABC News )

The ACT Government has brushed off a Legislative Assembly report calling for the reopening of the Hall and Tharwa primary schools.

The Assembly's Education Committee - dominated by Greens and Liberal MLAs - found the 2006 school closures damaged local communities and were not based on sound research.

It has recommended the ACT Government reopen schools in the rural villages of Hall and Tharwa.

But Education Minister Andrew Barr has ruled that out.

He says the report is politically motivated and the closures made sense.

"I am categorically ruling out taking any money from any other ACT school," he said.

"I want to assure every school community that their existing funding allocations and existing recurrent funding will not be, in any way, affected by the recommendations the committee has made.

"The Government does not endorse the Liberals' political plans to reopen schools."

That means the Greens would have to bring down the Government and install the Liberals to power for the schools to be reopened.

Greens MLA Amanda Bresnan will not say if that option is on the table.

"We'll wait for their response and then we'll decide what action to take," she said.

The Government says it hopes the Greens will not go that far.

Consultation process

The committee also heavily criticised the Government's consultation process saying all future closures should be presented as election policies.

Prominent opponent of the school closures, Trevor Cobbold from Save Our Schools, says that does not go far enough.

He says he is not impressed by the report.

"It's made some scathing criticisms of the consultation process that was used and we support those criticisms," he said.

"Yet it has failed to deliver action that will guarantee a better process in the future.

"What's needed is changes to the legislation not just more community consultation guidelines."

Mr Cobbold says the report does not deliver on its own rhetoric.

Community response

There has been a mixed response from the community to the committee's recommendations.

Tharwa resident Karim Haddad says the rural village still needs a school.

"We're also concerned that the Minister is stubbornly refusing to even look at it," she said.

"There's a record demand for the primary school in Tharwa, we have more children under five now than we have in the last 40 years.

"So there's very strong demand for a K[indergarten] to six eduction option that's in Tharwa."

The Liberals also wanted to include Flynn and Cook on the list to reopen but the committee recommendation did not go that far.

Roger Nicoll from the Flynn Parents and Children's Association says it is disappointing.

He says the future of Flynn school site remains uncertain.

"We were very disappointed that Flynn wasn't named as one of the schools that should reopen along with Hall and Tharwa," he said.

"But we are still hopeful that there might be an opportunity for us to negotiate a school as part of child care and community centre at Flynn."

The Government will formally respond to the committee's report by the end of the year.

Tags: schools, states-and-territories, act, canberra-2600

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