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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.

What’s Your opinion?

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26 Responses to
Cook school meeting – Barr states “Cook is a great School”
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 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 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 9:35 am 15 Sep 06



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 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 3:58 pm 14 Sep 06

Is this Aidan the ALP spray paint artist??

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 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 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 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

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