Debates Day 2 - Wednesday 1 May 1991
Parliamentary Record 3
Debates for 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 6th Assembly 1990 - 1994
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 1 May 1991 It is not possible to conclude that educational quality will be damaged by a school closure program. The quality of the receiving schools is well up to the normal high ACT standards. Nor is it possible to conclude that any of the schools proposed for closure are not good schools. The issue turns instead on how much extra per student is the community willing to pay to keep open the smaller schools and ensure the maintenance of educational standards. In the political context, the only alternative to accepting the inevitability of school closures was put to the member for MacDonnell at the COGSO Conference last week. He was told by a delegate that he must immediately write 2 clauses into ALP policy: that the ALP agrees never to close a school; and, that on attaining office, it would immediately reopen those that we have targeted for closure. Of course, the opposition would do neither. It would be irresponsible to make such a commitment, and I am sure that the member for MacDonnell would say that the ALP would not be prepared to do that. I turn now to the reductions in the student/teacher formula. These reductions are marginal. An overall result is shown clearly in a table circulated within the department's document outlining the proposed changes. Despite the changes, the Territory formula will remain the best in Australia in preschools. We will be behind only Tasmania and Victoria in our primary school formula. In primary schools, the Tasmanian formula is 21.2:1. In Victoria it is 21.5:1, and the new Northern Territory formula is 22:1, one extra student. The range in the other states runs from 22.1:1 to 26.2:1. In junior secondary, we will be behind the ACT but ahead of Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, which range from 17.9:1 to 23.5:1. At the senior secondary level, we will maintain our position, second to the ACT, with a formula of 15:1, while the states range from 15:1 to 19.3:1. As this comparison indicates, we will maintain a very favourable staffing formula when compared with the states. The savings exceed $9m and, as I have said, they offset the need to close further schools. So far, I have been looking at the items within education on which public debate has focused. In fact, 13 different areas of rationalisation were undertaken by the government in education. These included the establishment of the standard devolution package to schools and to TAFE, and I would have thought that the opposition would welcome this strategy since that very notion came from the schools themselves. As I have indicated, schools and respondent councils will have increased powers and responsibilities. Similarly, TAFE councils will take on further devolution of authority and decision-making. In parallel with this, through the job evaluation system, the positions of school secretaries and registrars are being upgraded so that they will be paid commensurately with the taking on of all devolution responsibilities. This is an important point which I have asked school councils to note. School secretaries and registrars will be required to undertake the major part of any additional workload related to full devolution. It is important to understand that the process will be designed to provide school councils with the support they need to cope with the new issues which will arise. It is a positive step because, through the devolution process, it is possible to decrease the bureaucracy. It eliminates the need to have people sitting in head office carrying out tasks that have become school-based. In the past, barriers to full devolution have included the problem for small, remote, outback schools, and this will be resolved by providing for regional school councils, assisted by the regional office, or large hub 785
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