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Flynn P&C submission to the school closures inquiry

This is a summary of the Flynn P&C  submission to the inquiry into school closures being conducted by the Standing Committee on Education, Training and Youth Affairs of the ACT Legislative Assembly.


Flynn Primary School was a popular and healthy neighbourhood school and community centre before it was closed in 2006. The Flynn P&C believes the school and community resource centre were wrongfully closed and that remedial action is needed. Opening the school and community centre at Flynn can be justified on the basis of righting past wrongs, but and equally strong case comes from considering the best way forward.

Flynn had overwhelming community support in 2006, and this support continues with a growing P&C group, backing of the suburb (expressed through an all-suburb survey) as well as three years of lobbying, a Supreme Court Appeal against the closure, and community action. The regeneration of Flynn continues with the influx of young families adding to the extended baby boom.

Drawing upon Flynn’s demographic need, community support and commitment, this submission presents three options for establishing a school and community centre. These options flow out of the following recommendations made by Flynn P&C arising from its detailed analysis.

1. The ACT Government’s Towards 2020 policy was flawed, and decisions made under it are invalid and should be reviewed, including through the release of all relevant documents

Towards 2020 was prepared in haste, without consultation or debate. It introduced a substantial shift in educational and neighbourhood planning but lacked validity because of the poor evidence-basis and because of the conduct of the consultation process. Towards 2020 claimed to be about improving educational quality, choice, diversity and equity but was quickly found to be a policy of mass school closures that deprived communities of neighbourhood schools and equal educational and social opportunities.

To properly evaluate, learn from and remedy Towards 2020, all documents related to the proposal to close schools and the subsequent consultation process should be released. This includes the Costello Functional Review and all documents withheld from release through Freedom of Information requests (excluding only privacy exemptions adjudicated by an independent arbiter).

2. The impacts of school closures were significant and should be recognised

The impact of Flynn school closing has been dramatic, leaving a gaping hole in the fabric of the community. The result has been an almost total loss of social and educational programs and activities in the suburb and a breakdown in social capital.

Families and communities are bearing the brunt of fuel, travel, and health costs, the effects of anti-social behaviour, as well as the emotional impact associated with losing a school, friends, and community connection. Flynn has lost its only community centre and thousands of hours per week of community activity. Former Flynn students have been abused at and on the way to other schools.

3. The consultation process was flawed, and the Act should be amended to prevent it being repeated

The consultation process is widely regarded to be seriously flawed. There is evidence that the deficiencies in the policy were compounded by a poorly conducted and hurried consultation process that failed to meet basic requirements of section 20 of the Education Act 2004 and the process set out in the Community Engagement Manual.

Throughout the six-month consultation period, it seemed that Flynn’s efforts were directed towards trying to reverse a decision already made. The flawed data, lack of openness and transparency, withholding of critical information, and departmental comments reinforced that view during that time. This has since been confirmed by evidence of bias or conflicts of interest in the department and Ministerial offices.

We have seen no evidence for any genuine analysis of the social, educational and financial impacts on students, their families or the wider community of closing Flynn Primary School.
The Act should be amended to prevent a similarly flawed process being repeated. The Education Amendment Bill is a good first step, but it could be strengthened in places to ensure the Minister executes certain steps properly and in sequence. The unfortunate lesson from 2006 is that a prescriptive approach is necessary.

4. Remedial action is needed—Flynn should be opened as a school and community centre

Flynn wants and needs a local school. In the view of the Flynn community, Flynn’s school and only community centre should not have been closed. It was the largest of all the schools closed, and it was larger than some that remained open.

Opening Flynn as a viable school and community centre can be justified simply on the basis of righting past wrongs, as shown by an analysis of the consultation process and impacts of closing Flynn. An equally strong case comes through considering the best way forward from here.
Flynn has the demonstrated need, community support and commitment upon which to open a sustainable school and community centre. Three governance and funding options are presented, all of which are designed to meet the established and future needs of the local community. They all include a school and childcare centre that are an integral part of a community centre with relevant and complementary community uses and, as appropriate, limited commercial use.

These are:
Option 1: a fully-funded government school
Option 2: a government-funded cooperative school
Option 3: a community-owned and run cooperative school responsible for the entire site

The Flynn community has a wealth of expertise that can be drawn upon to develop a sustainable business model for this, and the P&C urges the Standing Committee to do all in its power to make this a reality for the benefit of all concerned.

Images from Flynn

Angles on the textured concrete walls


Flynn grounds

Landscape setting & grounds

Enrico Taglietti visting the school he designed

History and design

Memorial to John Flynn

Memorial to John Flynn