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

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.

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26 Responses to Cook school meeting – Barr states “Cook is a great School”
nyssa76 nyssa76 4:37 pm 15 Sep 06

The policy will cause heart ache and stress throughout the system.

Mr. Barr, do you know where you will work next year? Yes you do.

I sure as hell don’t.

FFS, get off the can and quit destroying a system that is the best in Australia.

Chris S Chris S 4:24 pm 15 Sep 06

seepi, one would hope that they would, but of course they won’t. Then of course, few organisations do.

What should happen is that whatever changes occur in December, there is some sort of follow-up to see whether or not the objectives (whatever they are) of the closures have been achieved. Have costs been cut? If so, as much as expected? Have those disadvataged by the changes settled into the new arrangements? What needs to be done now? What lessons could be learned? etc, etc.

Won’t happen, though.

seepi seepi 11:47 am 15 Sep 06

This govt writes so manyplanning papers, sets up committees , ‘consults’ , but do they ever actually evaluate things after the fact, to see if in fact they did make any savings, or achieve their goals?

aidan aidan 9:35 am 15 Sep 06



nyssa76 nyssa76 10:25 pm 14 Sep 06

I await the decision for December. We all know what it will be, and we know Mr. Barr knows.

The consultation is a big joke – yes it is a part of the process but the decision has already been made, stated in LA and created in the shitty policy document Towards 2020.

miz miz 4:33 pm 14 Sep 06

Yep Aidan that sounds pretty right. ‘A range of factors’.

Hate that phrase ‘going forward’ – always reminds me (appropriately perhaps) like a line from Devo’s Whip It.

Androyd Androyd 3:58 pm 14 Sep 06

Is this Aidan the ALP spray paint artist??

aidan aidan 3:51 pm 14 Sep 06

Chris S,

No need to ask Barr, extensive observation of his utterances mean I can answer your questions for you:

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

There are no set criteria used. A range of factors, educational, social and geographic, were used on a regional basis to make the best use of our resources going forward.

“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?”

All parents of special needs children have been contacted by the Department and contingency plans for their children have been developed.

There were no set criteria for deciding on the propsed list of school closures. A range of factors, educational, social and geographic, were used on a regional basis to make the best use of our resources going forward.

“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?”

Detailed demographic planning has been done and underpins the decisions we are making now, for the future health of the Canberra public education system. No hypothecation of land sales has been made for the projected savings from these changes. An buildings excess to the needs of the Education Department are transferred to the Government Property group who may then find suitable tenants.

The reality is that Canberra’s population is rapidly ageing, and the density of schools appropriate in the 1970s is no longer appropriate for today and going forward.

Blah blah blah.

James-T-Kirk James-T-Kirk 10:00 am 14 Sep 06

No, No, No, No, No.

Why are we working on the basis that there is a rational behind this process?

Isn’t this a Government we are dealing with?

Do we believe for even a second that their actions are rational?

On that note, do we believe that we have a snowflakes chance in hell of changing government at an election?

I seem to remember that we voted at a referendumb (twice) for no self government….

Look at the good that that did us.

Lets just accept that governments are dumb, and randomly advised by departments that have just finished reading “being a departmental secretary for dummies”….. And get over it.

seepi seepi 8:40 am 14 Sep 06

I went to a large (800+) school in Canberra and it was feral. Teachers kept order rather than teaching (in my year nine english book I used 5 pages in a year.) And stuff was just destroyed – chairs thrown down stairwells, spit and grafiti everywhere. It was revolting.

miz miz 10:55 pm 13 Sep 06

bubzie, it is just so unfair that they have done this to your school. Stupid sums it up, there is no logic in it.
As a parent of three I agree with everything you say about smaller schools, as my experience is that larger schools ‘cope’ and ‘manage’ (meaning kids fall thru the cracks), while with smaller schools it just works, because everyone knows everyone. Some of these docs are worth a look

bubzie 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 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 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 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 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 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 Absent Diane 3:55 pm 13 Sep 06

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

miz 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 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.

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