26 September 2023

Committee calls for school improvements

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As many ACT schools struggle to meet capacity demands, the Territory has been advised to improve its planning process for new schools in a report from the Legislative Assembly.

In its report Managing ACT School Infrastructure report, the Assembly’s Education and Community Inclusion Committee said urgent action was required on capacity issues in ACT schools and it was vital to continue developing increasingly accurate school enrolment projection methodologies.

“It is evident that too many schools continue to have capacity issues and, in some instances, have required further infrastructure shortly after being opened,” the Committee said.

“The Committee acknowledges that the School Transition Estimation and Projection (STEP) model offers significantly more accurate enrolments projections than the previous model but concludes that a better solution is needed,” it said.

“It is concerning that even using the new STEP model the newly built Margaret Hendry school needed to be expanded almost immediately upon opening.”

The Committee advised the Territory to factor in the provision of out of hours school care into capacity planning to reduce or level waiting lists for parents and children.

It said it was “extremely concerned” that the use of infrastructure for restrictive practices and the existence of such practices continued in any school and called for urgent measures to eliminate these practices.

“The Committee feels strongly that more work needs to be done on disability access in all ACT public schools to make them more inclusive and accessible,” it said.

“The Committee supports full accessibility for students and staff with disabilities and their carers, as well as for students who are carers, at all ACT schools as soon as possible.”

The Assembly Committee recommended that the Education Directorate engage with the Australian Electoral Commission to understand their accessibility requirements for polling places, and to identify how the Directorate might address any barriers, “to assist not only polling day, but even more importantly, everyday access for its own students.”

It also called for a more systemic approach to sustainability be urgently applied to school infrastructure, ongoing capital works, and management of ACT schools’ large property footprint.

The Committee made 22 recommendations in total and said it would conduct a subsequent inquiry into the future of school infrastructure, including vertical schools, in the coming months.

The Committee’s 68-page report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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