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Barr says “demographic changes” make closures necessary

By IBN News 20 October 2006 57

There’s been lots of numbers flying around with the land tax debate this week.

And now there’s even more statistics, this time with the school closures controversy.

Education minister Andrew Barr is quoting ABS numbers to back up his case.

He says the ACT has had a declining birth rate for a while now, and demographic changes justify the closing of some smaller schools in suburbs with declining populations.

Barr also quoted some research yesterday about the government’s Towards 2020 plan, which contained the rather disturbing line that, in effect, parents who were initially angry about the changes eventually saw the light.

UPDATE: The Save Our Schools group has its own take on the ABS birth figures. Read their media release here.

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Barr says “demographic changes” make closures necessary
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seepi 10:51 am 23 Oct 06

Yes but by building heaps of schools in gunghalin to cope with the current increase, you are creating a problem for later on when the population ages. It would be smart to build some schools with a future purpose in mind (old folks home, ymca, office block etc) so as to avoid this syndrome of building and selling schools as the poulation changes. The current plan is very short sighted, as there are plenty of kids in the inner north, and when they are older there is only one high school, and there will be no college.

PB 10:35 pm 22 Oct 06

Miz, not sure of the exact ABS methodology but it would have to be all kids (public and private). Don’t agree with you on the stats – they show that more schools are needed in Gungahlin and fewer schools are needed in other places.

When you have less kids overall and less in public ed, some schools have gotta go.

miz 9:17 pm 22 Oct 06

PB, you’re a champ – thanks. I assume they have added up all the public and private school enrolments? No info was gathered from me in 2005 . . .

The ABS stats make you wonder why Chisholm (declining) is now getting an amalgamated school (unlike Gilmore – not declining but for no rational reason on the list for closure with 270 odd kids!) and Wanniassa (in same boat as Kambah) gets to keep theirs . . . it is just so arbitrary. Well the stats have proved they haven’t paid any attention to the actual demographics and it is all puff.

PB 2:25 pm 22 Oct 06


The data you are after on school age population in each suburb canbe found at:

miz 11:14 am 22 Oct 06

I meant the recent ABS census, though your info about the school figures being tracked mid-year is interesting. (Thank God they at least they do that!)

My quibble though is that there seems to be no way of tracking how many actual school-age children there are in each suburb/PEA, given that 1. births are not indicative enough, and 2. who knows how many children at the various private schools are from which govt school PEA. I thought the ABS data from the recent census might give a more accurate figure, instead of Barr chucking data about birth rates around. Not that they care of course – I suppose I’m putting my faith in the (unlikely) premise that they actually might make a fair and reasonable decision in the end!

nyssa76 10:49 am 22 Oct 06

There is a second census in July to keep the numbers “right” i.e. 1 teacher for 15 students.

So we could “graph” Feb 2006, July 2006, Feb 2007 to compare the changes.

miz 10:02 am 22 Oct 06

The census data (out in March, if memory serves) would be a better indicator of numbers of school-age children on a suburb-by-suurb basis. At least that would include people that have moved to Canberra for work and brought their families (and there seem to be a lot of these in my govt department).

Of course, the date when decisions on school closures are to be made is in December . . .
The timing of the whole process and this current spin on demographics is disengenuous.

nyssa76 1:44 pm 21 Oct 06

simbo, how many pollies with kids actually send their kids to Govt schools? Vicki Dunne and Katy Gallagher are the only two who have stated this.

Reading Hansard, you would know that.

The fact that he doesn’t have kids means he doesn’t empathise with the communities that he is destroying.

The parents and students will be affected by closures, staffing is affected by closures, student learning will be affected by closures as each school DOESN’T run the same curriculum “choices” at the same time, students with special needs will be affected.

Is he empathetic? No. Will he care when the whole plan goes pear-shaped? No.

Does he care more about the bottom line? Yes. Is he a puppet? Yes.

So he should grow a backbone, agree with Vicki Dunne to a longer process with more research and an actual strategic management plan before sending ACT education down the toilet.

Besides, Towards 2020 ISN’T stemming the tide to private education, it’s aiding it. Parents don’t like uncertainty when it comes to their children.

I look forward to comparing the February 2007 Census with the February 2006 data (before the announcement was made).

Anyone want to take a guess what the numbers will be like?

simbo 12:34 am 21 Oct 06

Nyssa, I have no doubt that many of the architects of 2020 are parents (from vague memory, Stanhope would be amongst them) – and, considering that Barr had been minister for about two months before the policy was introduced, I really rather doubt that his procreational status had any impact on why it was developed.

Look, I agree that it appears to be a policy put together on the run without sufficient due thought and consideration. And that’s a healthy, sensible argument to run.

Running the argument that he doesn’t understand because he doesn’t have kids is not a sensible argument, and it damages your cause immensely to have it mixed in with the rest of your arguments. If you can’t identify, isolate and remove the crap arguemnts from the good ones, then it’s very difficult to get people rallying to your cause.

miz 10:21 pm 20 Oct 06

Nyssa has hit the nail on the head. Barr doesn’t care, his only interest is self-interest – proving he can make it through this initiation period, and probably some kind of anal (so to speak!) obsession with balancing the books.

Mr Barr’s sexuality has come up (so to speak again) in a few amusing asides – eg at the tuggeranong forum: when he was banging on (and again!) about demographics, one bloke from Kambah said VERY loudly, “WE’RE still breeding, what are you doin’?” Barr has zero cred, and maybe his sexuality (insofar as he is unlikely to reproduce) is a factor in some parents’ eyes. But I don’t care if he’s gay or straight, he’s still a DROPKICK.

This whole birth rate thing is a red herring, it’s not the issue. There are private schools bursting at the seams, and also Canberra is very transient with people with kids Already Born (!) coming here – eg me, I have three and we arrived when my youngest was in Kindergarten. There are plenty of kids. But parents are smart, and since the economic boom have some discretionary cash, and they don’t want to send their kids to a school they PERCEIVE to be run down.

Fact is, the public system HAS been left to go to rack and ruin since self-government. It’s the common or garden rationalist trick of letting things dwindle to crap then going, hey, this is not working, let’s rationalise/privatise etc. Though I hasten to add that in reality the public system is damn fine still, as it was outstanding previously. But the PERCEPTION is one of decline.

Special G 8:19 pm 20 Oct 06

Sure AD, Schools need to close to work within the budget set. As to which schools close is a major issue. It seems the gubmint has just axed schools with little thought about why.

Close your eyes and point at the map is a good a reason as any.

Vic Bitterman 5:07 pm 20 Oct 06

Are you a boong Nyssa?


Absent Diane 5:05 pm 20 Oct 06

and many parents with opinions should be discredited as they have too much emotional attachment to the issue and therefore are unable to contribute unbiased logic.

Pandy 4:57 pm 20 Oct 06

Nyssa your comment “might” suggests that you only have a tan. But don’t let me stop you from associating with the black fella cause.

Absent Diane 4:56 pm 20 Oct 06

the schools need to close. period. anyone with a quarter of a brain can work that out.

barking toad 4:22 pm 20 Oct 06

Barr is just a labor hack thrown to the wolves by nohope in the education portfolio as the messenger to deliver the funding cuts disguised as planning

And he’s a poof

areaman 4:21 pm 20 Oct 06

Except that for anyone who’s gay it is a lot harder to have children, so the outcome of what you’re saying is that no one who’s gay (or infertile) can be the education minister. And that position is fucked, I don’t care how you came to it.

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