Small Schools newsletter - May 2015
Small schools are sometimes exposed to Recess, Closure, Amalgamation or Other Models of Education Provision. The Department of Education and Communities and principal organisations developed a set of protocols for such eventualities. Federation was later able to amend aspects of the protocols to allow some Federation oversight of the process and greater protections for members and communities.
The full process is available through the Portal on the Department’s website: search for the heading “Protocols for the closure, recess, amalgamation or other models of education provision of schools”.
Federation involvement is required, according to the protocols, at various stages throughout the process commencing at step 3 with the requirement for Federation to be contacted by the Director/Executive Director and be informed that recess, closure, amalgamation or provision of some other educational model is being considered.
Step 4 calls for a fact sheet to be prepared by the Executive Director that will be given to interested parties including Federation.
If local consultation is approved by the Deputy Secretary then a School Consultative Group is formed, consisting of parent, principal, DEC and local Federation Organiser.
Step 6 calls for the School Consultative Group, of which the Federation Organiser is a member, to organise meetings of staff and community to discuss matters including the role of school in community, future delivery models, future student and staff options, future options for school assets and resources. They are also called upon to use data to assess current conditions and assess the best educational provision for students in that school.
After the Director and principal have ascertained and guaranteed that the needs of transferring students will be met, communication is consistent and travel arrangements can be put in place, the Consultative Group is informed of proposed arrangements.
Step 8 is where the relocation of permanent staff is negotiated; it carries advice that support from the Work Health and Safety Directorate will be available. A condition assessment of nearby schools will be undertaken to ensure the needs of the incoming students can be met. Management of school finances must be considered at this point. Once again, the Consultative Group is informed of interim arrangements.
Step 9 is where it is stated that unless it is a one-teacher school or the Minister is satisfied that exceptional or emergency circumstances exist, recess, amalgamation or closure can only proceed if a majority of parents of students at the school decide to negotiate a recess, amalgamation or closure.
Unfortunately at step 10, if no parental consensus is reached, the Executive Director can seek approval to place the school in recess or closure and request the Minister announce a school closure and the establishment of a School Closure Review Committee.
Step 10 does, however, allow the Executive Director to maintain operations at the school. This allows, even at this late stage, for a school community to campaign for its preferred option for the school.
At step 11, the Director must develop – again in consultation with the school consultative group – a Recess, Closure, Amalgamation or other Educational Provision Model Implementation Plan to ensure necessary support and resources are available.
Considerations include student educational and welfare needs including new uniforms and transport, placement of permanent staff, counselling support, communication with stakeholders, assets management, timelines and P&C involvement.
It is clear, therefore, that Federation does have a role both directly, through the Organiser at steps 3, 4 and 5, as well as indirectly through their position on the School Consultative Group. Federation's role will be to ensure process is followed and that protocols are respected. It will also be Federation's role to provide advice and assistance to members involved in this process. Members and communities may, in some cases, also call on Federation for campaign assistance should they feel the outcome of any process will not be what the community sees as best for their school.