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Thursday, 18 August 2011
Page: 8636

Ms COLLINS (FranklinParliamentary Secretary for Community Services) (10:06): I rise to congratulate a number of school communities in my electorate of Franklin. It is pleasing that the member for Lyons is here with me. I know that he is supporting schools in his community which spent a considerable amount of time and effort recently trying to save themselves from closure.

Unfortunately, in June this year the Tasmanian state minister for education, Nick McKim from the Greens, put forward a list of 20 schools in the budget that were on a hit list for potential closure. This upset the local school communities. They had had no indication before that such a hit list was being drawn up or that they were going to be on it. There were four schools in my electorate on this list: Dover District High School, Franklin Primary School, Geilston Bay High School and Warrane Primary School. These schools were typically small and vulnerable and in most cases catered to regional communities, particularly Dover and Franklin.

Along with the other 16 schools in Tasmania, these schools were given just four weeks from the time of finding out that they were on the hit list to each provide a large submission to the state education department as to why their school should not be closed. Local community leaders engaged us, their local MPs, as they tried to fight to save their schools.

Certainly the process was not fair. Certainly I was deeply concerned, as I know some of my federal Labor colleagues were, about the timelines for these school closures. We were concerned about the consultation process—there was not adequate time for school communities to assess what was in the best interests of their students, there was no time for local communities to talk about the important and valuable role that schools play in their local communities and there was not, in my view, an assessment done on the best educational outcomes for the students. Instead, the process was based on raw numbers; there was no profile of the students that these schools catered to.

I congratulate the local school communities. They deserve all the credit for the change of mind by the state government. I also congratulate the state Premier for intervening in the matter and instigating a proper process of consultation to look at school communities in Tasmania and talk to the school communities about what is in the best interests of their students. I look forward to the outcomes of the review of this process, and I will be putting into the review a submission about how a proper process should go.

I have never said that no school should ever close, but I have certainly said that proper process should occur with school communities and that the best education outcomes for students should be the priority. That is what I will continue to stand for for my local schools as the review of the process is undertaken in Tasmania. All credit for where we are at now should go to the local school communities. They did an outstanding job.