Minister Andrew Barr attended a Community meeting at Cook Primary School tonight (12 Sept 06) and made a large number of vague comments about how the Government was going about assessing Schools marked for closure.
I looked around the School hall and noted that there was hardly a spare seat in the room and a number of people standing around the sides and at the back.
Barr agreed that Cook School has a fully integrated P-6 model with excellent IT, classroom and playground facilities that the rest of the ACT system should be modelled on. He made a number of comments on topics such as Cook School’s leading work with their autism programs and that Cook provided a high quality in teaching.
Audience pointed out that Cook was operating at 91% capacity (140) that the school was reduced to by previous Labour Government in order to gain revenue by leasing the second wing of the school. This was followed up by Barr commenting that there were 56 Cook Primary aged students currently attending out of area schools which could potentially be displaced by other school closures.
Barr also stated “Cook is a great School”
Which begs the question; Why the bloody hell is it marked for closure?
The government’s plan as outlined by Barr and the 2020 document is Primary Schools with 200-400 students. Aranda has 375 and Macquarie has 206. Aranda already has one demountable building suggesting that it is lacking the infrastructure to take any more students, leaving Macquarie as the only option for Cook families.
Barr outlined that Cook’s slightly higher than average operating costs did not impact greatly on the decision to close the school. He quoted figures that it costs $1000 more per year to send a kid to Cook than the average.
Cook school uses an integrated Autism program and has a large number of ESL (English as a Second Language) students. Both of these special needs groups have a much greater cost associated with them than the average student increasing the overall cost per student at the school where they are located.
On the short note Barr seemed impressed by Cook School except in two areas.
1 – number of students – part reason by the Government setting the maximum number of students at 140 and making $61,000 in revenue by leasing the second wing of the school, which goes to ACT property management, part of Urban services. A small amount of this (20%) is factored into the school operating costs for electricity and water.
2 – Cost per student – Special needs not calculated and not significantly above the average.
As far as I could see he could not come up with a good reason why Cook should be closed except that it was on the list.
On a slightly different note he made several comments throughout the meeting about the high quality of teachers in the ACT – too bad he doesn’t convert his opinions and comments into a half decent pay rise for the quality he expects.
Money saved on education today is money spent on law enforcement in time.
To see the Keep Cook open website follow the link. http://www.keepcookopen.org/