Streamlining consultation requirements on closing or merging a school
An area strategy is a non-statutory process that reviews the network of schooling across a particular area. It is usually carried out in areas facing a shortage or surplus of school places.
Area strategies often cover options for closing or merging schools and will involve consultation with affected schools and communities. If, as a result of the area strategy process, the Minister of Education (the Minister) decides to close or merge a school, he or she is then required to fulfil the requirements of section 157 of the Education Act 1989 (the Act). This section sets out consultation requirements once a decision to close or merge a school has been made.
The requirements under section 157 mean the Minister must undertake a consultation, even though one has previously been conducted under the initial area strategy.
The Education (Update) Amendment Bill (the Bill) proposes that, when the school concerned and other schools whose rolls might be affected have been consulted on an option to close or merge as part of an area strategy, the Minister is not required to undertake the section 157 consultation requirements.
When will these changes take effect?
The Bill is expected to come into force in 2017.
Will the community still be consulted with on closing and merging schools?
Yes. The Minister will continue to consult with schools and communities before making decisions on closing or merging schools. The removal of the requirement to fulfil the provisions of section 157 will only be applied if consultation on an option to close or merge a school has already been undertaken. Schools that face closure or merger will continue to be given at least 28 days to make a submission to the Minister to contest the decision.
Will this mean schools are more likely to be closed or merged?
No. The Bill proposes to streamline the process by removing an unnecessary layer of consultation that repeats the process undertaken during the area strategy. Schools and communities will remain involved through the area strategy consultation process.
What will this mean for schools and communities?
The Bill streamlines the process for closing and merging schools. This means that schools and communities will not face repetitive consultation and an unnecessarily drawn out process of closure or merger.
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