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Canberra state school closures threaten to overwhelm Catholic capacity


Catholic high schools in the ACT are at full capacity, officials say, and would not be able to absorb students from state schools that the ACT government plans to close.

The Canberra Times reports that opposition to a plan by the ACT Government to shut 23 schools is gaining momentum yesterday, after private schools queried their ability to cope with a potential influx of students and the NSW Government ruled out paying for its students, most of whom will remain at ACT schools.

Earlier the ACT Government had planned to close 39 schools but backed down last Wednesday to reduce the number of closures by nearly half.

A spokesman for the Catholic Education Office said Catholic high schools were full.

He said capacity at primary schools was mixed.

The Times adds that ACT Education Minister Andrew Barr drew fire in the Legislative Assembly yesterday, surviving a censure motion after he was accused of failing to explain his school reforms and bribing the electorate.

The Government cited low enrolments across the sector, higher than average education costs in the territory and the high number of NSW students at some schools when it announced its plan in June to shut nearly a quarter of ACT public schools.

Private school fees soar

Meanwhile, a survey by the Sydney Sun-Herald has found that private school fees in New South Wales will rise by up to 10 per cent in 2007, with more schools breaking the $20,000 tuition fee barrier.

New members of the $20,000-plus club will be SCEGGS Darlinghurst (up from $19,290 to $20,925 for senior students) and Ascham School in Edgecliff (up from $19,994 to $21,500). They join the Shore School in North Sydney, whose 2006 fees for senior students stood at $21,804.

Edmund Rice College, in Wollongong, will post one of the largest increases among the 25 schools which responded to the survey, with fees jumping 9.6 per cent (to $1812) for year 7 students and 7.9 per cent (to $2448) for years 11 and 12.

Reddam House, in Bondi Junction, will charge 9 per cent more (to $18,105) for senior students.

Independent Education Union president Dick Shearman said increased wages for teachers was the major factor.

The Independent Schools Association (ISA) said rising copyright costs, information technology expenses and the growing costs associated with government reporting and compliance requirements were other factors.

"In recent years, schools are required to spend increasing amounts on security measures," ISA executive director Dr Geoff Newcombe said. "Independent schools get relatively little government funding for capital development. The cost of classrooms, libraries, school halls and other facilities must be paid for out of parents' pockets."

Council of Catholic School Parents executive director Danielle Cronin told the Sun-Herald that "parents are learning to expect [fee increases] but it doesn't make it any easier. It can be a very anxious time for parents."


SOURCE
'Tis not a season to be jolly for schools - ACT (Wimmera Times, 15/12/06)
Costly lessons: private school fees soar again (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/12/06)

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18 Dec 2006