26 July 2005

Bastards. [Education"reform"]

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Firstly sorry about the title of the post, but this this tweaked my melon a little bit too much.

The Canberra Times is reporting here that the Government had admitted it commissioned secret feedback on closures of schools.

Essentially, eight focus groups were set-up consisting of parents all over Canberra, and then quizzed about what considerations they make when choosing the right place for their childs education. This in itself, is not such a bad idea, after all without asking you wont get an answer. But paying them $50, and forcing them to sign a confidentiality agreement I find a little queer. In my experience, when giving money to people for their views it is very rare for them to stray far from the line that you are hand feeding them.

That is why the decision makers are bastards in my book, and the fact that the Education system in Canberra is about to be dumbed down into some mass fed homogonised American style pap. Not cool, Ms Gallagher, not cool.

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At least McDonalds will have a clear idea on where they want to build their next ‘restraunt’.

Samuel Gordon-Stewart10:53 pm 28 Jul 05

Maelinar, I have to agree.

Assembly is hell at any school, but a school with that many students is going to cause teachers to go on stress leave much much more often. 1400 kids aged 5-16 in the same room is not my idea of fun, enjoyment, a good job, sanity, or sensible planning. As for the people talking at these mass kidathons (I’m talking about assemblies if you haven’t guessed) are going to get about as much attention as a doorknob on an unused door and as much respect as a piece of chewing gum underneath a shoe.

I’m still paticularly taken with my previous:

Teachers will be able to get together in larger groups with their 1400 young pawns to tape their mouths shut at whatever Government policy they don’t like at that respective time.

Consequences Standope, Consequences…

School buses are pretty full actually – many are standing room only, and I don’t follow them to work, I see the kids getting on and off them at the business end. Most kids catch the bus, or walk if the school is close enough. Simple fact. I was only pointing out that a school of population X is not going to have X cars going to and from it each day as someone else implied.

Sure the bus system in Holt sucks, but again, greater numbers equals greater service. Schools arrange buses with Action based on numbers of users.

Teacher:student ratio – why mention it if it can’t change? A private school can have a lower number of students per class, but no school can have higher without a change to the working conditions of ACT teachers, something that I’m sure our union won’t stand for in the next EBA.

I never said it wasn’t a waste of money to build a whole new school, I rather think it is, particularly when many schools are in dire need of refurbishment (many schools being 30+ years, and the majority of rooms haven’t had refurbishment in this whole time).

They’ve already closed high schools in the West belconnen area to shunt them to other schools, but it hasn’t ended up saving Gininderra District High because it has such a poor reputation that many families that are in its intake area bypass it to send their darlings to either Belconnen or Canberra high schools.

I would opinion that the population base exists to make a school in the area viable (particularly with Dunlop and the proposed West Macgregor development), so the gov’t wants to keep a school there, but it needs somehow to get rid of Gininderra’s bad rep, and also forge much clsoer links between feeder primaries and the secondary school. Their solution? Build a spanking new K-10 school – no bad rep and almost garaunteed flow through from primary years. Seems quite reasonable to me, except for the wasting money on building it part when they already have several pre-exisiting highschool sites to choose from.

Oh, and as for 4WD access – I hope they don’t have it.

What bus do you follow on the way to work Chalker, the ones I follow are usually empty.

That’s possibly due to the fact that either the bus service in Holt – well sucks really, or the fact that children can just walk to school since it’s local.

My point about student:teacher ratios started with the comment that it is dubious that it hasn’t been mentioned, given the fact that the ratios are usually an advertised facet of introducing a new school. The fact that it hasn’t been mentioned is apparent to me because I know if a Government department doesn’t want you to think about something, they’ll usually start by not providing what should be obvious.

I then developed the line of thinking to get people to think about student:teacher ratios by being concerned that since they haven’t been mentioned that there is indeed a coverup.

At least people are thinking about it. I want to go so far as see a media release from Standope promising the coveted student:teacher ratios that are standard in the ACT will be adhered to in the new school.

Is that too much to ask ?

Given that Standope’s Media Advisor is a plagiarist I would expect something to be released shortly.

Or in the CT, I know they read this forum as well.

As for the rest of my gripe, I’m concerned with greater infrastructure such as roads and transit, also to bring the attention to the wider community that just by having a great idea to build a mega school, doesn’t make the idea great. Everybody who has read this post has at least thought of the route from their house to the location of the school, and I’m guessing that most of the readers have thought “Shit”.

As a parent to be soon hopefully, I’m concerned that the Government is wasting my hard wrought parking ticket money on bullshit when an asset base is already there, on location, established and running.

Now I’m not quoting the ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ adage, my concern runs deeper than that, especially since in my previous life I have been involved with major corporate restructures that have run into the billions.

I can tell you now with the experience that I do have, you will never make savings by spending a shitload of money building a comparable structure.

If one school in one suburb only has 300 students, instead of closing 4 to build 1 new super dooper school (sorry bulldog), why not temporarily close 1 to increase the population of the other 3 ?

I’ll tell you why not, Standope Govt ain’t interested in saving your and my money, they don’t give a rat’s ass about the children, heck, I don’t even think they give a rat’s ass about Canberra. – All he cares about is money (as in income) and the next chance to put his mug on a newspaper. Unfortunately the greater political circuit in Australia is completely overrun with that personality type, so there isn’t much option elsewhere.

Will the monorail go to the school ?
Will there be a fast-pickup lane ?
Will there be further road infrastructure or will it be all windy narrow streets that 4WD vehicles can’t traverse ?

All these questions only become relevant with the construction of a new school don’t they ?

Someone mentioned teacher:student ratios a while back and several others have mentioned cramming loads of kids into one classroom, presumably with a single teacher. This won’t happen at the new West belconnen / mega school any more than it might happen at any other school simply because teacher:student ratios are standard across the whole ACT. If the school is bigger (more students) it likewise has more staff allocated to it.

Many small schools are unable to cater for all of their students needs simply because there are not enough students. For example, if you have a school population of 320, that’s only 80 per year group which equals only 3 classes. This means limited capacity for streaming in core subjects so your lower and higher ability kids don’t get the education they need. It also means that many elective subjects will not be able to attract the numbers of students they need to run, so the students get less choice about the subjects they can do.

1400 students is not that big at all, considering it will be a K-10 school, that’s 11 years worth of education, which is less than 130 kids per cohort. This is a smaller number than many Belconnen high schools currently have (numbers approach 200 per cohort).

As for traffic congestion, most parents do not drive their kids to school – especially high school. Most kids catch the bus.

Thumper: We want a centralised school so we know where to pick up the things we see for only about 3 hours a day but are legally responsible for until they are 16.

We are the borg.

Thumper – I will respond to your claim that there is no consultation. There has been and will be more. Just this week I received a notice inviting me to a public forum to discuss the proposed changes and listen to arguments on both sides. I’m unlikely to attend because a) i have no kids, b) weetangera already has a primary school and c) i am about to move further away from holt.

You seem pissed because you haven’t been personally consulted about the proposal. What exactly is your objection, I haven’t seen you put forward many compelling arguments for what is flawed with the proposal, however you seem pretty quick to label stanhope lackeys who might at least be entertaining the idea of the mega school (a concept that is already in place at gold creek school)

Since I have now turned over to the other side and am pro-combine, and the lack of fellow supporters as they have all disappeared, I will attempt to answer your questions with some facts.

The new school in Gininderra will teach children how to be homogenous and centralised, so that they will be able to better adapt to living in a society where shopping only involves going to a place with ‘Westfields’ or ‘Mall’ in the title.

The road toll of people having to drive all the way to Gininderra from Holt etc. will in no way be a Government responsibility and so they will save money by not having to spend it. Obviously the road infrastructure is already capable of handling the excess traffic having to travel the opposite direction and then combine with the Gungahlin overload into Canberra’s workplaces, so no further upgrades will be necessary.

Reducing the road toll of 300 vehicles trying to get to several locations at similar times of the day will be completely removed by trying to get 1500 vehicles to the one location.

Students will have consistency in training as they will be sardined into the same classroom, and therefore will receive the exact same education as everybody else in the room. (Dr Nelson will thank me for this, it’s in line with his policy)

Students will be moved from big rooms, to brand spanking new big rooms with network cables installed.

Teachers will be able to get together in larger groups with their 1400 young pawns to tape their mouths shut at whatever Government policy they don’t like at that respective time.

And the savings that will be made from centralising all those non-watered, self sustaining playing fields into the one, central non-watered, self sustaining playing field speaks droves of the wisdom behind moving infrastructure to a centralised zone.

Get that up ya.

“Andrew, so it was the curriculum that was the problem? Not the fact there were over 1000 students. Have you ever considered that the two are inextricably linked?” – Thumper

Thumper, I think someone else mentioned it, but there are at least 4 other schools in Canberra with 1000+ students already. There are many schools in other states with 1000+ students.

Other states have K-12 schools, Darwin has 2 I know of, as does Brisbane.

uh-huh… I’m so dumb I’ll follow you now.

What will we do in 2012 when the school population is back to 80’s numbers ?

Is there a road that can handle 330 extra cars enroute to Amaroo from Holt alone every weekday ?

Will there be infrastructure to take 800+ cars every schoolday dropping off and picking up children ?

I’m following you now. O Oliphant of wisdom.

No doubt the same argument was made when 3 of the 4 Nth Canberra schools were closed. yet now, there are 330 kids at the remaining merged school Majura – do you seriously think we should have kept open 4 schools for 330 kids?

Holt has the same problems Nth Canberra had in the 80s, The suburb was built at the same time and has a population made up largely of people of a similar age. This creates a bulge in school age chidlren, which is now winding down, kaing the school no longer justified.

The super school at Amaroo has been designed in such a way that the buildings can be used for other purposes if the school, or parts of it, are not needed in decades to come. This was a specific part of the design brief to avoid the problem with closed schools being only useful as homes for macrame classes (Hackett) and computer repairers (Downer).

Stephen, I have been involved with several huge corporate ‘makeovers’ over the years, the problem is that should you close a school in Holt for example, your asset has depreciated since you invested in it, and ultimately you will lose money (although that will be counterbalanced by the hideous cost of land at the moment). That aside, a lot of money has been invested in putting a school in Holt, that is undeniable. To close the school would be throwing that money away.

There was obviously a reason why they built a school in Holt in the first place, and there is a population there that supports having a school, only that the population is ‘new’, and still going through phases.

By phases I’m referring to the term ‘Baby Boomer Suburb’, we’ve all heard of it. They’ve had their kids, and their kids are now busy growing up. There is going to be a natural gap, or a couple of slow years until the school population grows to a constantly sustainable group, as the suburb settles down into a less phased and more living community.

By building a ‘super school’, they’re wasting money on three fronts; Firstly, by purchasing products to build the ‘super school’. Secondly, by writing off the investment made in the previous school. Thirdly by increasing the workload on the people of Holt and the other suburbs involved to get their children to the ‘super school’. – I bet you that even though they’ve come up with the wonderful idea to have this mega school, that traffic congestion will still be a problem, even though they are designing it from scratch.

The same phases will occur in Gungahlin as it settles down, doesn’t it sound like common sense to place a school there where it is accessible to the population of Gungahlin, which may be overloaded for a few years, but as the population settles down, will turn out to be a more appropriate investment ?

Apparently ‘thinking’ doesn’t make the selection criteria for Government Jobs either..

Market research IS good for any policy. It’s a very handy way of gauging the parameters of the debate before you go public and use wider consultation.

But this is a no-brainer – ask anyone around Holt whether they want their school closed and the answer will be no. But, if the numbers are declining, it’s in the best interest of the people of Canberra to close the school and spend the money elsewhere (new schools in Gungahlin for example). Governments have to act in a wider interest which will often not be in the best interests of those immediately affected by the decision (ie, Gungahlin freeway – should a couple of hundred people who have their backyards spoiled be able to stop tens of thousands of people getting a decent road).

Thumper may be surprised to learn that there are already schools in Canberra with over 1,000 students – Lyneham High has about 1100 foe example, and why? Because there aren’t enough schools in Gungahlin, which is where this all began. Best use of resources (and no, I don’t live in Gungahlin).

Has anybody noticed that nobody has mentioned the student/staff ratio’s at all ? (except for here)

Given that it was a huge focus point most recently, I am suspicious that the fact that they are not mentioning it belies the fact that they are doing something that starts with ‘d’ and ends with ‘odgy’.

Focus groups are common in marketting to research perceptions. Their use for political purposes are by no means accepted by the public for policy debate.

They do not constitute consultation, rather are a guide to what cyncical government can get away with.

To help us further the debate, Stanhope has put out a release ( here — I think his web people finally came back to work) to help us recall that the Liberals went to the last polls on a platform of school closure.

He says, “Unlike the Liberals, who would have simply closed and merged small, unviable schools, the ACT Government is building a better school, from the ground up, a school that will deliver a 21st-century education to the children of West Belconnen, from 21st-century facilities.”

Food for thought.


Thumper, the fact that you did no work for 3 years has little to do with the fact that the school was large… I’d suggest curriculum played a large role.

Alot of market research that is conducted involves paying people that are involved – As stephen opinted out, they do not know WHO is asking them these questions.

More feedback from the community might be nice, but we’re talking about governments here, baby steps guys. No consultation -> Some consultation -> More…

The teacher:student ratio is worked out by a “points” system. More students, more teachers. Generally (excepting extremely small schools) this means there is the same class size across the board.

I don’t see how the new school is going to be anything like the US system, excepting it’s size.

“Canberra is about to be dumbed down into some mass fed homogonised American style pap.” -> Again, that’s curriculum… Which has no proposed changes from the local government.

Op is either a teacher or member of the ACT Liberal party but knows NOTHING about market research.

The people paid to take part in those focus groups will NOT be told who is paying for them and are free to say whatthe hell they like.

And what would you rat5her have – a government which just closes schools (Kate Carnell) or one that seeks feedback from the community guide its action.

OP also clearly knows nothing about the US school system.

More political propaganda disguised as community feedback.

My understanding is that in the US they have Elementry (k-5), Junior High (6-8) and High schools, (9-12) all generally with seperate campuses. Now those schools are big, but that because they bus them in from all over, not because they cover a lot of years. Different to what the government is proposing.

I haven’t seen anything saying that the staff to student ratio was going to be any different to what it is in the rest of the system. Now I’m sure we’d all like it to be lower across the system, but this new west belco school shouldn’t have a higher or lower ratio than anyone else.

Forgot to mention that Colmar Burton are a marketing ‘intelligence’ firm as opposed a group of consultants who actually have experience in delivering a viable education solution to anyone.

Actually Areaman I beg to differ. If you look at the system that is proposed for the new ‘mega’ school that is due to be established at Holt/Higgins it is designed eerily similar to schools in America, in size of both years covered and student population. It is a long lamented fact that the better education systems have a lower ratio of students to staff, something that this particualr model seems to be lacking.

Yet more right wing bull. I love this line

and the fact that the Education system in Canberra is about to be dumbed down into some mass fed homogonised American style pap. Not cool, Ms Gallagher, not cool.

That’s not a fact, it’s an opinion, and a pretty hard to support one at that.

It’s not reading that’s the problem, it’s stopping her lips from moving while she’s reading that poses a problem…

This is another example of misdirected funding and shit ideas that will ultimately mean our children will suffer.

“For God’s sake; What about the kids!”

Samuel Gordon-Stewart10:18 am 26 Jul 05

You’ll have to get one of her assistants to read that to her, I suspect she is trying to bring the education system down to her level…I’d be suprised if she can read, she can’t even give the same story to two media outlets.


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