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Thursday, 11 October 1973
Page: 1928

Mr DOYLE (LILLEY, QUEENSLAND) - I address a question to the Minister for Education. How are the appeals against the categorisation of non-government schools proceeding? When can decisions be expected? Is the Minister in a position to comment on the nature of the appeals?

Mr BEAZLEY (FREMANTLE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Education) - The first meeting of the new Interim Schools Committee, which we hope will become the Schools Commission, will be tomorrow and the appeals will be heard then. I am not sure whether it will take a day or two days for the appeals to be heard. An extensive analysis of the grounds of appeal has been made by the officers whose duty it is to do such work and by certain members of the Committee. One of the grounds of appeal that was stated by the Interim Committee was a change of circumstances. Honourable gentlemen will recall that early this year, because of the circumstances of the rural economy, I brought in a Bill to provide $3m for hardship cases involving students at the tertiary level. This was provoked by the situation at the University of New England. There was a droughtaffected economy. The rural industry was depressed in 1972. Of course, there has been an unbelievable transformation with the change in the prices obtained for wool, wheat and so on since then.

Next year many people in the country will probably be sending their children to boarding schools who withdrew them in 1972. That would be a very clear change of circumstances. The staffing ratio of schools from which a lot of children had been withdrawn in 1972 could rise. That is a very clear ground of appeal. I understand the major ground of appeal lies where it has been pointed out by many of the officers concerned that the school has not stated its own case at the correct level. Many headmasters are very good teachers and have been promoted through their private school organisations to be headmasters but are not necessarily good clerks or good accountants. Many (have not stated their case as it should be stated. This sort of thing has meant that when the headmasters have been invited to put in another assessment with very clear and accurate figures the whole status of the school can be greatly transformed. I believe this is likely to happen in a great many cases.

I think other principles ought to be noted. Very few schools - and I refer to those which can be classed as schools of normally very high academic standards - have made a special effort to locate within the school centres for handicapped children. If honourable gentlemen have ever seen the Commonwealth Government schools for the handicapped in the Australian Capital Territory they will know that under certain circumstances, where a child has multiple handicaps, there is a ratio of one teacher for one child. If handicapped centres in schools are treated as normal staffing, a school will be disadvantaged when it ought to be advantaged for its public service. So, a factor like that needs to be taken into consideration. I believe that the appeals will be finalised in the near future and that the situation of schools will be much clearer.

However, I remain concerned about the problems of one State. I think this is an important consideration. New South Wales grants $75 a head to schools at the primary level and at the post primary level it grants $88 for families towards paying their children's fees. That does not give anything additional to the schools. At the secondary level in New South Wales the State contribution is therefore nil whereas States such as Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria are granting $104 a head to schools which might be categorised as A schools. Therefore the situation in New South Wales seems to me to be somewhat different. I am not sure whether that matter is being taken into consideration. It is certainly a matter that needs to be considered. Even if it is not a job for the appellate committee I would certainly like to take another look at it.

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