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tim bolte


Education minister misled, Palm Avenue parents claim
02 Jul, 2010 04:00 AM
PARENTS from Tamworth have queried whether bureaucrats were misinforming NSW Education Minister Verity Firth about the Dalwood Assessment Centre and Palm Avenue School.
They say the minister made numerous incorrect statements in an ABC Radio interview last week, which indicated she was being misinformed.

The questions come in the wake of alleged government department manipulation of an online survey of parents of children with learning disabilities who have used the service.

Tamworth parent Angela Brown quoted Ms Firth as saying the Palm Avenue School’s relocation to Westmead Children’s Hospital was working very well: “parents hopefully haven’t noticed any difference at all”.

“I can’t see how she can possibly say this knowing there have been countless complaints made to her department about how the service has been compromised,” Ms Brown said.

“I myself and a delegation of parents told her chief adviser directly, there were serious issues and with new service levels and many complaints about how it was being run.”

Ms Brown wrote an 1800-word letter to Ms Firth, addressing what she said were more than 15 broad and serious inaccuracies in the minister’s statements.

“Probably the worst is, she was quoting wrong statistics that indicate residential students did not sustain gains made over the longer term,” Ms Brown said.

“In fact, data has consistently shown students do maintain skill gains and continue to extend those gains, information we’ve tried to get to her for over six months.

“One has to wonder why there are so many parents passionately supporting the service if their children have not continued to do well on the DAC/PAS service?”

Ms Brown said parents felt their input had been blocked by bureaucrats from the start and now feared the minister was not getting the full picture.

“The minister talked about getting the services to where the children are – the ideology of a few chief bureaucrats,” she said.

“Of course, in a perfect world there would be teams of experienced professionals all over the state. Sadly, this is not the case and having a centralised service like this, that parents and schools are happy to use, is a pragmatic alternative.”


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THIS is just another example of government departments running rough shod over ministers. The bureaucrats within the Department of Education and Training (DET) are renowned for their pig headed-ness and self serving nature. They believe they are guaranteed a pay cheque every fortnight for doing sweet bugger all. They give a bad name to all the wonderful teachers and administration staff out there that keep our schools functioning under DET’s mismanagement.

Verity Firth is just another, in a long line of ministers that are manipulated at the discretion of DET. Sure she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed but that’s the way DET like it. Hopefully a new government will have enough go in them to put the cleaners though DET and get them working towards public education once more.

The Dalwood fiasco is just another example of DET at its worst. The advisory panel is just a smoke screen to appease parents. The DET has made up its small mind with the what, where’s and who’s surrounding Dalwood. Why would they already be advertising for jobs at Westmead Hospital within Palm Avenue School. NSW had a shining light in Dalwood and Palm Avenue, now it’s a black hole. Visit

Reply: Hi Tim. Bureaucrats are always misinformed. That is how the system is set up. It is designed to protect the reputation of the Government. Then the Minister/bureaucrats responds with "I understand" or "I have been advised" and they are safe from having to answer as they are just going on what they have been told. Of course you can tell them until you are blue in the face that they are being told lies and that you have the evidence to prove it BUT the 'process' doesn't allow for any of that. It is shut tight and so suffer as a result.

Twisted Confidence

I have seen how inadequate the Dept of Educ Complaints Handling Procedures are. One school in the Sutherland area had problems for a number of years. The District Superintendent became aware of the problems during the 1st year and at a meeting with staff and union promised things would improve. Next year a new District Superintendent who had to catch up with the problems so naturally the problems kept on going. Again staff and parents started complaining but no action taken by the Dept other than trying to label staff and the complainants as the problem. The teachers even had their husbands form a lobby group which the Dept tried to shut down. A teacher was attacked and threatened a lot of times by a student but again the Dept tried to ignore it and indirectly tried to suggest it was the teachers fault. When the teacher complained the so-called Complaints Handling procedures ignored any of the teachers Occupational health complaints especially the one where the Dept secretly changed the Occupational Health Committee minutes. So the Dept found there was nothing wrong. Isnt it great when the Dept investigates itself against serious allegations of Occupation health problems. Didnt the Police stop investigating itself years ago so the public felt comfident in the investigations? But when the Dept made an allegation against a teacher suddenly the Complaints Procedures went full steam ahead and found the teacher guilty and passed a punishment. Only problem was that the teacher didnt know of the investigation or allegations til after the secret investigation had found the teacher guilty and passed a punishment. When the punished teacher complained that there was not natural justice the Dept said there was and when the teacher resubmitted the complaint to the Head Office guru the complaint was returned marked "not known at this address". Talk about no credibility. No wonder teachers are leaving in droves. The Dept needs to realise that they exist for the teachers, students and parents and not the other way around. Members of the public need a Teachers Integrity Commission like the Police Integrity Commission so that we have some confident in the Complaints Procedures. And a final note - the Dept after so many complaints and problems at this school was pushed screaming into doing a staff welfare Review of the school. Guess what was the Dept found - the staff didnt want to change and communications was not 100%. Lets blame the teachers not ourselves - nothing about bullying or favouritism or teachers being scared at school.
Lesson learnt by teachers and parents is to take their complaints outside - the Depts Complaints handling procedures have no credibility. So off to the media, the opposition, the union or whoever can guarantee a fairer system of complaint reviews.

Jolanda: Hi Twisted Confidence: It is going to get worse I fear because now they have let us know that the Ombudsman is loosing funding and will be unable to investigate the vast majority of complaints against Government Departments. Already the Ombudsman's Office does not investigate 99% of complaints so essentially nothing will change. These are public excuses to justify the increase in complaints being closed without being dealt with and without affording complainants/whistleblowers procedural fairness and natural justice. I wonder when it will explode.

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