Gungahlin College Students Miss Vital Schooling

A lack of air conditioning at the College has led to students taking ‘flex leave’ from their education, on hot Canberra Summer days, it was revealed during the Annual Report hearings on Friday.

These two weeks have been busy at the Legislative Assembly. The Annual Report hearings have been going on. For those interested you can follow the proceedings on the Assembly on Demand (1:51:20). The purpose of the hearings is for the Directorates to respond to questions about the Annual Reports by members of the legislative assembly on matters arising out of the Reports. These might be obscure references, incomplete statements, seek clarification on a variety of programs, or simply to follow up on issues of interest on behalf of the community.

One such matter arose in the hearings on Friday, when it transpired that students at Gungahlin College were taking a ‘flex’ day during hot periods in the school. This was due to lack of air conditioning. The response by the Minister was a little disingenuous. Gungahlin College was not built in the 1950’s where we might have expected that the buildings structures were not designed to cope with the heat. Instead, the school was built in 2011. And our temperatures in that time have not risen. In fact according to the Bureau of Meteorology, Australia has warmed by around 1 °C since 1910. Just to put it in perspective, the average monthly max temp in Jan, 2011, for Canberra was 28.8, for 2016 it was 28.5. However, in 2010, the year before Gungahlin College opening the mean was 31.8!  And the lowest maximum was in 2015, when it was 27.4.

The Minister was perhaps a little superficial in her response to the question. No doubt the ventilation system at the school is state-of-the-art, but it is not working. Furthermore, for students to be flexing off on days when the temperature is too hot for them to be studying is not an acceptable option, putting their education at risk. The department is going to have to work on getting the school air-conditioned, or installing some ventilation system that will adequately cool the required area. As I pointed out in the committee, other schools in the ACT have air-conditioning, the convention centre has air-conditioning. I am sure that it is not beyond the capacity of the air-conditioning industry to come up with a solution to the continuing problems of Gungahlin College, and this as a matter of some urgency.