Save Tharwa School

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Questions & Comments for the Afternoon Tea with ACT Ministers - Mon 19 June

  • We have sent many unanswered questions over the past week to DET feedback and your ministerial offices. In this document, we are summarising many of our main questions/comments with the goal of having them addressed at the Mon 19 June Afternoon Tea meeting.
  • Barr has stated that “It’s not the loudness of a particular case and it’s not the sheer number of people who send me emails or petitions, it’s about the quality of the argument...I will be most swayed in my consultation round by the most intelligent, rational arguments the community can put forward.” ( We are keen to engage in rationale dialogue and help the government to develop viable alternative proposals to the current one. So, it is vital that we are provided with efficient access to detailed information and data. When can we have this information?

List of Questions

Marily Cintra, Executive Director, Health and Arts Research Centre

  • Tharwa Primary School is relevant to our community, as one of the few assets which provides opportunities for social support, and engagement. Is the announced closure of Tharwa Primary School, together with the abandonment of Tharwa Bridge (both Heritage listed) a sign that Tharwa is not worth the attention from the ACT government? Why?

James Neill, Educational Psychologist

  • The research review studies on school size available via the DET 2020 site clearly tend towards the conclusion that there are greater educational and social benefits for small schools and less than anticipated efficiency and cost gains for larger schools. What is your reading of the research evidence on school size which justifies the shift to larger schools?
  • What role/influence does the heritage status of the Tharwa School buildings and area play in the current proposal to close the school?
  • Are there any other schools in the ACT which have heritage status? What is the DET policy on schools with heritage status?
  • Could you please explain how school capacity is calculated and provide us with past, current and project enrolment and capacity data for Tharwa Primary School and Tharwa Preschool and relevant comparative statistics?
  • I refer to Barr’s recently received, undated letter “Towards 2020: Renewing our Schools” sent to staff, parents, carers and students of Tharwa Primary School. In it Barr states that in addition to current enrolments, “a range of factors such as projected enrolment, cost per student, potential for the school to be converted into a different educational structure, capacity, access and location”. So that we can respond reasonably to your proposal, could you please provide details of the data you have on these indicators for Tharwa Primary School (and also Tharwa Preschool) with relevant comparisons.
  • Could you please supply details of the criteria and data used to justify the planned closure of Tharwa Preschool and Tharwa Primary School?
  • Could please provide an update on the ACT government plans and timeline for Tharwa Bridge.
  • I understand that the ACT government proposed the closure of Tharwa Primary approx. 14 years ago, possibly under the Carnell ministry. Could you please tell me what DET and parliamentry records about this are available and how I would go about requesting and accessing them?

Emily Haesler, Nurse Research Consultant

Below are some of the questions I have asked DET from various email addresses (e.g. my school one, personal one, professional one. I didn’t copy the first few days questions that I sent via the website form.


In light of your recent public announcement regarding intentions to close Tharwa Primary and Pre Schools, I am requesting your analysis report on the viability of our school. This would be most helpful for us during the consultation process.

Emily Haesler Tharwa P&C Committee President on behalf of the Tharwa P&C Committee

I am at Tharwa Primary School. I already went to Gordon PS but it was too big and I HATED it. Where will I be able to go to school next year?

Patrick, grade 2 (BTS)

Good morning,

My family sent 4 or 5 emails last week asking questions about the proposed closure of Tharwa Primary School. As yet we have not received any replies from this email feedback address.

How long does it take for you to reply? As you may understand this is of the utmost importance to our family as our entire life revolves around the Tharwa school and community, in fact the rural atmosphere was our reason for relocating to Canberra last year.

I would also like to know precisely what options there are in the south Tuggeranong region for students for whom the ‘super school’ model is not the most appropriate learning environment. My son attended Gordon PS for 2 months when we first moved and, as a gifted child, he was given no support within the school, he was forced to read readers well below his ability, no gifted programs were offered and the staff could not provide any information of such programs external to the school. At the time your department could not provide any suggestions either. In short, this school was unable to provide the level of education he requires and within a 2 month period my happy outgoing clever 7 year old became withdrawn, depressed and hated school. It only took one day at Tharwa PS to realise the environment was very supportive, the teachers could provide an appropriate individualised learning program and my son became interested in schooling again. 700+ students in a school may be the government’s ideal, but in our family’s experience it leads to neglect of individual student needs (both educational and social) and there needs to be an alternative.

Thank you Emily Haesler

Andrew Barr writes in Towards 2020, Renewing Our Schools, Tuggeranong:

“Towards 2020 will .... provide our students with greater choice and diversity through the provision of high quality learning environments and opportunities”

Can you please outline the choices I have with respect to my child’s schooling if I have already established that a ‘super-school’ like Gordon Primary does not meet the needs of my child?

I need some help to understand how closing the only alternative (Tharwa Primary School) in my district to the ‘super-school’ increases choice and diversity.

Could you please supply the data on which Gordon PS has been determined to provide a ‘high quality learning environment’? In my experience as parent to a gifted child I found the educational opportunities to be significantly lacking to the point where after 2 months at this school I urgently needed to find an alternative to maintain my son’s interest in learning. In comparison to Victoria from where my son came and was attending 2 gifted child programs, Gordon PS could provide no extension programs, no access to or information about programs specifically for gifted children and no allowance within the curriculum to advance gifted children (e.g. providing readers at an appropriately difficult level).

Thank-you for providing the research that provides the basis for Andrew Barr’s statement.

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