17th June 2011
Nr Nick McKim, MP
Minister for Education and Skills
Level 9, Marine Board Building
1 Franklin Wharf
HOBART TAS 7000
Dear Minister McKim,
I write on behalf of the Derwent Valley Council to express our dismay and anger at the decision to possibly close grades 7 - 10 of Glenora District High School (GDHS).
Council understands that these are difficult financial times, and that there have been tough decisions to be made, however we along with many members of our community feel that this decision shows scant regard for the importance of schools in regional communities.
I note from the list published in your media release on 16th June 2011 that of the twenty schools listed for possible closure, sixteen are in regional or rural towns. Yet another important service may be lost from many of these towns that are already struggling to keep the fabric of their communities intact. These schools are not only places of learning; they are the hub of communities. The GDHS has a proud history of being an integral part of a strong community, it is the a meeting place for many parents as they drop off and collect children, sometimes the only social contact that some residents of more remote areas have in a day. It provides a community venue, has a Skill Share Centre, Child Care facilities and an Online Access Centre.
I understand that the current proposal is to close grates 7-10, but as a community this presents many concerns to us. If these grades cease to be taught at the school, where is the guarantee that at some time in the future the primary school section of the school will not cease to be utilised. This is of particular concern as the Premier is reported in today’s paper as saying that ‘half empty’ schools can not continue. If students are taken from the school, surely it will become less full.
I believe the GDHS has a number of enrolments from the now closed High School Section of the Ouse High School. How is the education of these young people going to be impacted by yet another change of school due to an ever changing State Government Education policy.
Both Maydena Primary and Westerway Primary feed High School Students into Glenora District High, are these young people expected to travel another 20-30 minutes each day to reach New Norfolk High School? (This additional time could bring the travelling time for students from Maydena well past the Premier’s nominated 45 minute travel time.) In winter on icy and foggy roads this poses a threat to the safety of those young people, and their bus driver. It will also considerably lengthen an already long day, again especially in the winter when it will be dark when children leave home and return.
Has consideration been given to the effect that this will have on the community as a whole?
There is much currently being said about supporting regional communities; this seems to be severely lacking in this proposal. If years 7 – 10 close at Glenora District High what will happen to the Skills Centre there as many of the young people there will no longer be in the area. This is just one example of the loss of a service to a regional area. When areas such as this loose services, families are forced to reconsider their lives, and some are forced to move on, a drop in population leads to a drop in services, such as Police (there is currently a Police Officer stationed at Bushy Park) and in other communities where there are more services often health and transport services also move out of the area. Soon the only people who are left in an area are those that can not afford to leave, leading to a drab and impoverished existence for some.
These are just a few examples of the importance of a local school in a regional community, there are many, many more that I could bring to your attention to highlight not only the social but also the economic and emotional impacts of this poorly considered and ill planned decision.
I note from your media release of the 16th June 2011 that you will be conducting a “genuine consultation process” and will meet “fact-to-face with all potentially affected school associations”. Although I applaud the concept of a consultation process, why is this being limited to only school associations and not the general communities that will be affected by these proposed closures. As I have indicated earlier, it is not only those people who have children enrolled in a school that are affected by these closures; it also threatens the fabric of many small communities.
Council would therefore requests that the opportunity to attend consultations to be extended to the broader community in the area, as well as Councillors in order for the full effects of these proposed changes to be felt by those who are making them.
Premier Giddings is reported to have said in the Budget Speech:
"Mr Speaker, a government can make no more important investment than in looking after children and supporting families".
It would seem from the actions regarding this school closure that that is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind if this measure were to go ahead.