Education Minister Joy Burch's handling of new private school applications in the ACT has been questioned. . Photo: Jay Cronan
Government school groups have accused the ACT Education Directorate of using a biased panel to approve the registration of new private schools in the territory.
There is also rising anger within the Charnwood community that a planned Christian school could threaten enrolments at the local government school as well as take over land used to conduct its major local fund-raiser, the Charny-Carny.
In the latest of several criticisms made of Education Minister Joy Burch's handling of new private school applications in the ACT, Save Our Schools, the Australian Education Union and the ACT Council of Parents & Citizens Associations have condemned the make-up of the panel which approves private school registrations.
The current panel draws six of its 10 members from non-government school.Previous panels had a majority of members from the government sector.
Ms Burch has come under intense fire for the way in which she approved, late last year, Brindabella Christian College establishing a second campus in Charnwood and the Canberra Christian School starting a second campus in the new suburb of Molonglo.
At issue are the public consultation and transparency of the decisions, as well as low demonstrated demand for the schools, and now, the impartiality of the registration board.
Ms Burch has already announced a departmental review into registration procedures with the government school groups saying it was a conflict of interest for the new school registration board to have a majority of non-government members.
Australian Education Union ACT secretary Glenn Fowler agreed about the conflict of interest and SOS convener Trevor Cobbold said Ms Burch had ''ignored her own departmental manual for the registration of private schools, which states that the panels are independent''.
The ACT Education Directorate said the panel appointments were ''consistent'' with appointments in previous years, which had varied between a minimum of two representatives and a maximum of 10.
A spokesman noted no school could have a representative assessing its own registration and noted that the Catholic school system assessed all its own registrations internally.
But Mr Cobbold countered that the government had ''effectively handed over registration approval to private schools. It is a self-regulatory system rather than an independently regulated system, which is what it should be.''
Charnwood mother-of-three and Charny-Carny organiser Linda West said the Charnwood community had been bruised by the imposition of a new private school without adequate consultation.
''We just feel the government hasn't considered the impact this will have on our great local government school, which does an amazing job with our kids.''
There had been some concern that that Brindabella Christian College could take over the oval which is the venue for the Charny-Carny.
The carnival is the major fund-raising initiative of Charnwood-Dunlop Primary, St Thomas Aquinas Primary and the Mount Rogers Scout Group, which between them raised $36,000 at last year's event.
The oval is the property of the Christian Life Centre, which took over the old Charnwood High School site. The centre makes the oval available for community events.
A spokesman said on Monday that the grounds had not been negotiated as part of the college's application to take over the former government high school building. He said that, while events using the oval needed to be negotiated each year, the carnival would continue to be able to use the land ''into the foreseeable future''.