Government mixes messages on Botanic High school zones

The Premier and his Education Minister have been caught out providing different information about who may be able to enrol in the new Adelaide Botanic High School, according to the State Liberals.

In telephone call advertisements to residents in the city and inner suburbs, Premier Jay Weatherill makes the claim that "children in your area will have the choice to enrol in this new school, or in the current Adelaide High School".

However in Question Time yesterday, Education Minister Susan Close clarified that while parents can nominate a preference, they won’t be guaranteed to get that preference, saying that enrolment criteria would be applied “…in the event that there is an imbalance in the number of places available versus the number of children applying.”

Even the process for deciding who will make the decision about which school children go to is still to be determined – with Minister Close clarifying “… now that the new principal has been appointed… when he starts his position early in term 2 he will be working through the exact mechanics of the unusual circumstance of having two schools with a shared larger zone. We should be in a position to answer that question in more detail after that.”

“The Premier hasn’t even waited for his own Minister to work out how the shared zone between Adelaide High School and Adelaide Botanic High School will work, and he’s already pestering local families with robocalls promising them the world,” said Shadow Minister for Education John Gardner.

“Not content with spending half a million dollars of taxpayers’ money on ads spruiking his electricity plan, now he’s doing ads overspruiking the choices that will be available to families when it comes to schooling.

“The Minister has been careful with her words. She has repeatedly said that ‘families will nominate which of the schools they would prefer their child to attend’ but she has never promised, as the Premier has, that ‘children in your area will have the choice to enrol in this new school, or in the current Adelaide High School.’

“The Government has had a series of different positions on this in the last decade. At the 2010 election, when the Liberal Party promised a new city high school campus, Labor said it wasn’t necessary.

“When Labor finally agreed to build a new city high school before the last election, they said there would be a shared zone. Then they suggested there would be two zones. Now their advertising material says that there is a shared zone and children can go to whichever school they prefer. But the Department’s release and the Minister in Question Time have said that they can apply for whichever they prefer but they won’t necessarily get in.

“Either the Premier is confused, or he is choosing to be misleading. Either way he should recall all of the families who received his message and apologise. Otherwise all South Australians should remember this: if Jay Weatherill is on the phone, don't believe a word he says!”