Tuesday June 27, 2017

Shifting The Goalposts

Written by David Marler
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School Closures Shifting The Goal Posts  

Shifting The Goalposts

Apparently, asking for certainty about the future of your school translates into shortening the deadline within which you need to provide justification to the Newman Government as to why it should remain open.

Late on Friday of 21st July, 2013 Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek dropped a bombshell and announced that the August 9 deadline would be moved forward 2 weeks to July 26th...


At the time, P&C President of Toowoomba South, Caroline Bennett was in a meeting at the school with the principal, her local MP John McVeigh and Department of Education senior policy advisor, Tim Rawlings.

The meeting was interrupted by a phone call which the principal excused himself to take.  Upon his return, he announced that the consultation period within which schools had to return their applications to remain open had been shortened.

Mrs Bennett told radio ABC Southern Queensland's Belinda Sanders of Mr Rawlings' his response.

"Mr Rawlings is one of the people who have been given authority to act on behalf of the Minister. Apparently, there are a number of delegates given that authority now. So the Minister is not under any obligation to attend anything himself personally."

"But I did ask Mr Rawlings and he came back and said that, 'probably because communities want it over sooner than later'."
Belinda Sanders asked Mrs Bennett if that was the case for the three schools in the Toowoomba area.

"Absolutely not! Even in Brisbane. I'm in constant contact with the P&Cs in Brisbane and when I got home from the meeting at about 12:15pm, I went straight on twitter and Facebook."

Putting the word out via social media was met with shock and disbelief.
  School Closures JPL
"It took me a long time to convince them that we had got this message," Mrs Bennett explained to listeners.

"I was later able to confirm that schools were told at 3pm on Friday."

Friday was the last day for school term 2 in Queensland.  As Mrs Bennett went on to explain, there were now 2 weeks of no school contact on top of a shortened deadline.

"This is a major goalpost shift. There were no rules and guidelines to begin with. Then to just arbitrarily shift the day, it means that everything has to be brought forward. Online petitions finish on a certain day, other P&Cs have plans leading right up to the 9th of August which was the original date so everything has got to be rescheduled and hurried up."

"The problem also is that the announcement was made on the last day of school, so you've got 2 weeks where the school is not open and so you're not in contact with the community as you would be in school time."

In response, Belinda Sanders also interviewed Queensland Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek about the shortening of the consultation process.

Mr Langbroek stated, "There's been a significant period of consultation all ready, about five weeks and that parents throughout these communities have said they'd like to have some certainty as quickly as possible."

"Whilst it's important that we have feedback from these 140 students across these three schools (Toowoomba region), I consider that to be an extensive period of consultation there's still five weeks from now till the 26th of July and it's important that process be enabled so that people can have some certainty for next year."

Belinda Sanders asked him if that had been expressed by the parents in the Toowoomba community.

"We've had that from the 9 schools across the state where we've been having these discussions."

"There's a process that happens via the outsourced consultants. There are consultants who are doing it, it's not teachers who are doing the consultation. So the arguments about whether school holidays effect these matters when we are speaking about 140 students who we do want to hear from, that certainly can be done over 10 weeks which is of course 70 days."

Sanders asked, "Have you all ready made the decision to close schools?"

Minister Langbroek replied, "No."

"When will that decision be made?"

"Well, we're saying consultation deadline is by the end of July we're anticipating having a decision made some weeks after that so that we can give this certainty to parents and all of those communities with adequate time for 2014."

"Did you take into consideration the announcement was made on the last day of school term cutting the P&C's access to the school community?"

"Well once again, Belinda, I've rejected that. The fact that its mentioned on the last day of school is actually an issue for a connected school community many of whom who are in contact via the various methods we've heard about this morning; via social media, it's nothing to do with the fact that it was the last day of term.  It's more about saying that parents have said that this is a protracted process. We believe around the state that we'd like to have this calm and mature conversation but that we'd like to have some certainty for 2014, sooner rather than later.  Two  weeks shorter of what it was does not mean a grossly shortened period of consultation at all."

With the Federal election looming on September 14, the Newman Government may be trying to quieten community unrest.

The Courier Mail's Sarah Volger reported on the response from Together president, Vivienne Doogan.

Ms Doogan felt that recent protests were hurting the Newman Government and the decision to move the deadline forward was an effort to stifle rallies.

"The protests that have been going on by the communities associated with those schools are starting to hurt,'' Ms Doogan said. "They don't want to listen to it any more so they are cutting it short."

"There have been very strong community campaigns against closing."
Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek has shortened the deadline on school closures to 'provide certainty  'Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek has shortened the deadline on school closures to 'provide certainty' 
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'The Education Minister Answers the Question: Why has the deadline for school closure submissions been moved?'

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