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Cook school meeting – Barr states “Cook is a great School”

By Special G - 12 September 2006 26

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/

What’s Your opinion?


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26 Responses to
Cook school meeting – Barr states “Cook is a great School”
bubzie 10:37 pm 13 Sep 06

I’d check both of them out, and see what they’ve got to offer you..

I think the whole towards 2020 proposal is stupid. I’m currently in year 10 at kambah (which is closing, surprise surprise!!!) and its so stupid. We’ve already almost lost 40 students because of it (and i know its going to be more by the end of this year..)
And also all three schools marked for closure in kambah have learning support units .etc. How are students in them going to cope with changing to another school? And for that matter, how are kindergarten children going to cope? their going to be there for like a year, and then have to change..

And bigger schools arent always better. I went to a school with almost 500 students in it for years 7 and 8, and then i changed to a school with almost 300 students. Its better there, because you get to know everyone there much easier.

miz 7:21 pm 13 Sep 06

Don’t forget other schools are affected too, not just ones on the closure list – like Caroline Chisholm High. Supposed to become a P-10 (ridiculous). I am wondering what to do now about my year 5 child, whether I should now consider Calwell High as at least it will be unaffected by change and will still be a normal 7-10.

miz 7:16 pm 13 Sep 06

AD, if as you say ‘a lot of these schools won’t actually close’ – they have not said that as far as I know, please enlighten me if you know something factual – if so, they have not been up front about this, and have needlessly frustrated and stressed many, many more people than necessary. And it has also (as Nyssa points out) needlessly skewed the demographics away from certain schools. Either way they’ve got rocks in their head.

nyssa76 5:57 pm 13 Sep 06

Calwell is deemed “closer” (not having to cross Drakeford Dr) to Richardson/Isabella, so it will most likely take on those students.

Swaggie 5:26 pm 13 Sep 06

Seepi, it was Bonython and yes it should by now be an Old Folks Home. What’s also apparently forgotton is that not only is Bonython now expected to take overflow from any local schools that close but there’s a big new housing project about to start on the corner of Barr Smith and Athllon – a minimum 350 dwellings I believe. The whole affair is a shambles – they need to start anew on this whole issue with adequate planning and not the rushed botched job that they’ve dreamed up overnight.

nyssa76 4:27 pm 13 Sep 06

AD, they won’t now…but thanks to Mr. Barr and Towards 2020, they aren’t getting the enrolment numbers they should have received had Towards 2020 not been released.

Parents are being scared away from those schools on the hit list because of the uncertainty.

Is Chief Numpty or Mr. Barr going to tell us in December which schools are closing from 2006-2008? Not bloody likely.

Verdy, Wanniassa has 1 Govt PS, 1 Govt K-10, 1 Non-Govt K-10, 1 Non-Govt 7-9, 1 Non-Govt K-6 and 1 Govt College.

In Kambah at least 1 Govt school has a special needs area.

Wanniassa apparently has “the numbers” to stay open, whilst Kambah does not. It still doesn’t make sense as larger schools aren’t always the best for students.

Absent Diane 3:55 pm 13 Sep 06

You do realise that a lot of these schools won’t actually close.

miz 2:17 pm 13 Sep 06

Verdy, exactly which schools in Wanniassa are closing??? This is why people are annoyed – it is random, some kind of pin-in-map decision based on capricious criteria. And to cap it off, the consultation process is farcical, possibly even sham.
People are very angry, just as you would be if a govt decision that majorly affected you and your family was made suddenly and irrationally.
To use an analogy, if a ten storey apartment building was suddenly proposed next door to you, without any real complaints mechanism as the decision has already been made, on grounds that they could ‘amalgamate’ the block as there were too few people living there, and it’s based on a secret report, how would you feel?

verdy 12:54 pm 13 Sep 06

Whilst I have to agree that the government has handled the schools issue poorly, surely some rationalisation has to occur with changing demographics in order that taxpayers get value for money. In Kambah we have four public primary schools and one catholic while neigbouring Waniassa has atleast three public and two private. Surely this is overkill for the area and there is too much emotion in the arguments.

Chris S 9:49 am 13 Sep 06

Thanks seepi. It amazes me that a known, measurable and predictable phenomenen like demographic change isn’t factored into things like schools, so that all participants (the community, parents, kids and teachers) have some certainty.

Instead, we have community outrage (some real, some confected, some self-interest, some deeply-held concerns for the “victims” of arbitrary decisions) which could all have been avoided with some planning and, most important of all, clearly communicated strategies.

Simple, one would have thought.

seepi 9:38 am 13 Sep 06

When the school closures first came up a lady called radio saying that a tuggeranong primary school (bonython maybe?) had been specifically built to be a short term primary school, in the nappy valley era, and then turned into an old folks home – the building was designed to meet that purpose. But 10-15 years on, this is not occuring, instead neighbouring schools are being closed and that one is staying open. so someone years ago was trying to plan for changing demographics, but that has all been forgotten in the stampede of trying to close 39 schools, some with less than 6 months notice.

Chris S 8:37 am 13 Sep 06

I have no particular interest in the school closure issue, but as a Canberra citizen, the whole approach concerns me.

There are no publicly available criteria that the Minister/department are using to assess school viability, and Barr seems to be offering all sorts of false hopes when he mouths these platitudes.

From what I can tell, almost every school has got some claims as to why they should remain in existance; in some cases it is intrinsic because of the prgrams they run (Cook’s Autism unit seems to be a godo example). Some claims are extrinsic, for example that their closure would result in too many students then having to enroll at adjacent schools that don’t have the capacity.

What a shambles! We were involved in an earlier round of proposed closures (about 1990?), when the same sort of thing happened, and that resulted in communities being played off against each other.

What is needed is a long-term, strategic approach, where gradually changing demographics result in gradually changing facilities, always bearing in mind that requirements change down the track (as suburbs go through some sort of renewal process).

This massive proposed closure system is a dog’s breakfast, and shows the short-termism that not only permeates the Minister’s thinking, but shows the bureaucrats don’t have a clue about strategic thinking.

Nyssa’s idea for emailed questions to Barr is a great idea. Here’s a couple for a start:

Mr Barr, what are the criteria you will be using to determine which schools should close?

Mr Barr, how much notice are you going to take of special programs that are being run at many schools, and where major changes may mean that parents and children may no longer be able to access those services? s this facet of school education included in your criteria?

Mr Barr, where is your department’s long-range strategic plans for dealing with demographic change within suburbs – we all know what is changing, so why can’t your department make plans that allow for painless transitions away from schools, and back again when the need to resurrect them arises?

Swaggie 7:41 am 13 Sep 06

Special, He came to our local PS a few weeks ago and uttered a shed load of wonderful sounding phrases – everyone left feeling good about our prospects but he’s going round saying this sort of thing to every school he visits apparently. Mis sums up the situation quite well but the department has to be acknowledged as being totally inept and useless, I can’t really blame Barr he’s been shafted by his Chirf Minisster, his Colleagues, his advisors and his department. The map linked also appears to defy the laws of physics with placement of our local pre primary and primary schools! Another one for the collection we’re building of dumb and misleading deparmental publications if we haven’t got it already.

miz 7:22 am 13 Sep 06

Time for a re-think of the whole closures issue. Hardly any money saved, massive cost (in every sense) now and continuing for god knows how long.

The entire process has shown up government, ministers and departments as bumbling idiots who can’t even get school names correct on maps (see Gininderra College featured in Tuggeranong on the 2020 map here http://www.det.act.gov.au/2020/pdf/MapTuggeranongRegion.pdf – scroll to lower map).

Better to cut their losses now politically, too, I would think.

nyssa76 7:15 am 13 Sep 06

Special G, don’t forget that Cook’s been “recognised” as a great school and if memory serves, won a few awards in the past few years for it.

The cost for the school is shite. Govt won’t release the 2nd wing of the school, which could free up some space at Aranda.

Cook is a great example of a small school community. The Govt should be thankful that such school exist. Students can get easily “lost” in a school with 1000+ in it.

If I had of known it was on last night I would have gone and asked Mr. Barr a few questions.

I wonder Kerces, could we do another e-mail Q & A to Mr. Barr?

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