School closures abandoned

FACED with unwavering community opposition, Education Minister Nick McKim today announced that the State Government would not proceed with its proposal to close or downgrade up to 20 schools, including Glenora District High School.

Mr McKim said the process being followed had caused significant distress for students, parents, staff and local communities. “I acknowledge the pain and hurt that resulted from the announcement that up to 20 schools would be considered for closure and I apologise for that,” Mr McKim said. “The potential closure of any school is a highly emotive issue and I am genuinely sorry for the anxiety that has been caused to all involved.”

“We got the process wrong, but we have listened to the community’s concerns and acted on them. It is an important part of our democracy that Governments are responsive to the communities they represent,” he said.

“It became apparent to me after visiting eight of the schools being considered for closure that we should have engaged with school communities before the announcement was made. It has become clear that we need to devise a new process that has broad community consensus to address concerns about the viability of some schools. That is what we will now do.”

Future plans
Despite today’s reversal, Mr McKim said the government was not walking away from the issue of declining enrolments at state schools. “We will now engage in genuine consultation, which I hope will lead to a broad consensus about how we tackle this issue in the future,” he said. “All schools will operate as planned for the 2012 school year and I will be writing to all school associations to confirm this position.”

Mr McKim said he would establish a reference group to consult widely and advise him on a new process by the end of this year. “I will be in a position to announce the make-up of this reference group and its terms of reference in the near future,” he said.

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