Desperate for a school
The rebadging of Hawthorn Secondary College (The Saturday Age, 30/3) to boost flagging enrolments – only 443 students in 2012 – highlights the inequality of education across Melbourne. Education Minister Martin Dixon has refused to build a new secondary school in the inner west, claiming there is insufficient demand. However, he used inaccurate population figures to come to this decision. Currently there are about 1500 potential students in Seddon, Kinsgville and Yarraville who would attend a local high school if it were built. Good luck to Hawthorn. But, minister, where is the fairness?
Sarah Corbet, Yarraville
PARENTS pushing for a new high school in the Yarraville area say they have hit a brick wall with the current government.
The Seddon, Kingsville, Yarraville (SKY) High working group’s decade-long push for the return of a secondary school to the area has stalled since the Liberal government came to power two years ago.
Spokeswoman Janine Lloyd says: “There are now unexplainable delays on the part of both the Education Department and the minister’s office that are creating frustration among our group, and it’s increasingly difficult to tell our membership of over 1300 families to be patient.”
Ms Lloyd said the problem would only get worse as a forecast 50 per cent population increase in Maribyrnong created a gap in public education.
In 2010, the Department of Education commissioned a demographic report on the area, which is now being updated with this year’s figures. The report uses a range of data, including ABS population figures and the number of children coming through primary schools to determine the need for secondary education in the area.
But Ms Lloyd said SKY High had been left in the dark as to the next steps in the process. “It’s particularly frustrating, given that in August 2010 the previous government had organised stakeholder forums, identifying solutions to our education black hole, for presentation to the SKY community in early 2011 — one and a half years ago,” she said.
“Unfortunately, the group has seen few signs of progress since the current government was elected.” SKY High has written to Education Minister Martin Dixon seeking a meeting.
The group will be rallying for support by building a “pop-up school” in Yarraville on December 15.
Mr Dixon’s spokesman, Ashley Gardiner, said the department was still analysing the report.
“Representatives of SKY High will be invited to meet senior officers from the department when this work is finished.”
Public schools shortage
Research undertaken by the SKY High Working Group has identified that secondary college yield in SKY is 40 per cent higher than the rest of Melbourne combined.
Secondary college yield is the percentage of children in an area who attend a public secondary college, as opposed to the percentage of children attending any secondary college.
“The SKY secondary college yield of 50 per cent demonstrates the strong commitment to public education in this area, especially when compared to the Melbourne metropolitan average of 36 per cent,” SKY High member Janine Lloyd said.
“SKY children do not have a local public secondary college; our nearest public college is at least five kilometres away, the furthest that any children in Melbourne have to travel to a public high school.”
Ms Lloyd said the strong support for public schools in the region began from primary school, with 71 per cent of primary school aged children attending a public primary school.
She said the SKY primary school yield was 30 per cent higher than the rest of Melbourne.
The SKY area used to be served by the Footscray Yarraville High School and a Catholic High School until the early 1990s, when they were shut down by the Kennett Government.
Recent SKY High research found four out of five of last year’s Grade 6 students in the area are now enrolled in a public high school.
Of the four public primary schools in the SKY area, two now have zoning restrictions, and a third manages rising enrolments by implementing a neighbourhood policy.
Ms Lloyd said SKY High was concerned that progress towards a new high school in the region had stalled since the Ballieu Government was elected almost two years ago.
“There are now unexplainable delays on the part of both the Education Department and the Minister’s office that are creating frustration amongst our group and it is increasingly difficult to tell our membership of over 1300 families to be patient,” she said.
“Families in the SKY neighbourhood are leaving due to the lack of a high school. The fracturing of our community is no longer acceptable.”
SPECIAL REPORT: Melbourne schools bursting at seams
17 Apr 12 @ 12:01am by Rebecca David
STATE primary schools are turning into “portable classroom cities” to cope with the population boom in inner-city and outer growth suburbs, the body for state school principals says.
About 70 per cent of government schools in Victoria use portable classrooms, with 6000 in use now.
And as state primary student numbers grow – up by more than 4000 kids in the past five years – concerns escalate about whether high schools will be able to meet demand.
Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal said the growing number of relocatable classrooms in schools was unacceptable.
“You see these little portable cities growing,” Mr Sal said.
“We need to be letting the Government know where schools are growing rapidly and there hasn’t been adequate capital funding to accommodate them.”
Australian Education Union branch president Mary Bluett said more needed to be done to accommodate students in growth areas such as Casey and Cardinia.
“There is an obvious need for new schools in growth areas such as Berwick, Cranbourne and other areas where the demographics are changing,” Ms Bluett said.
“Portables are supposed to be temporary measures. They can be freezing in winter and boiling in summer.”
Cardinia, Melton, Whittlesea and Wyndham were named among Australia’s fastest growing local government areas by population expert .id.
Education Department spokesman Stuart Teather said it was finishing a feasibility study into primary education provision in the Port Melbourne area and would be providing this to the Education Minister in the coming weeks.
“The department builds new schools to meet long-term enrolments, in some situations – such as when an area has a short spike in school-aged children – relocatable classrooms can be brought in to meet the demand.”
James Martin, spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon, said the “vast majority” of students were taught in permanent buildings and that new ‘Mod 5’ relocatable classrooms offered high levels of comfort and high energy efficiency ratings.
But Mr Davis suggested investing in permanent buildings for schools could benefit the wider community.
“Portables are the right way to do it, but you’ve then got some generations of kids who will go through primary schools living in portables,” Mr Davis said.
“You could look at building permanent buildings with an eye to having those modified in the future – once numbers drop – for different purposes such as community-use halls.”
But at Port Melbourne Primary School – among the most crowded schools in Victoria – enrolments jump by an average of 90 students a year and 14 portable classrooms already cover a third of the school’s play area.
With two portable classrooms needed to accommodate every 90 students, principal Peter Martin feared they would soon lose their yard altogether.
Albert Park Primary School was forced to change timetables and split morning and lunch breaks to accommodate its 400 students.
And Whittlesea Council estimates the area needs up to 30 new schools over the next five years to meet with demand.
The council’s advocacy general manager Griff Davis said schools such as Mill Park Heights Primary School were operating at triple their desired capacity.
Yarraville West and Kingsville primary schools, which have enrolment caps, are “bursting at the seams” SKY High spokeswoman Susan Douglas said.
Southbank parents are calling for a new school to accommodate the 500 children under 14 in the suburb, while families living 2km away from Strathmore North Primary School say they are excluded from the tight enrolment zone.