Category Archives: Articles about SKYHigh

Parents scramble to get in the right education zone – Herald Sun

MORE than 220 government schools in Victoria are being forced to turn away local families because they are hitting capacity.

Exclusive figures from the Education Department reveal for the first time the increasing struggle many parents face to get their children into popular government schools.

The records show 224 primary and secondary schools now have enrolment restrictions. They are either capping the number of students or using map boundaries. Some use both.

Families missing the cut are forced to move closer to their first choice – boosting real estate prices around the most popular schools – or settle for other options.

Both the State Government and Opposition say there are enough schools to cater for demand overall.

But some parent groups, principals and community advocates argue there are not enough schools where families need them most, and that “unpopular” public schools need more resources.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy said while increasing numbers of parents were opting for public education, they could not be blamed for picking some schools over others.

“It’s laughable that governments advocate parental choice when they’re not comparing apples with apples,” she said.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal was surprised by the number of schools with restrictions, but said state and federal funding of public education was too low.

“We must provide the support needed to all government schools that enables them to attract and retain teachers, as well as instil confidence in their local community,” he said.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said the Government was closely monitoring the changing needs of communities.

There were many reasons schools got to the point of needing caps and boundaries, including reputation, areas of specialisation and population growth.

“Some parents choose a school on a drive-by, so if there’s a brand-new building out the front, that’s often an attraction,” Mr Dixon said.

“It’s so important for parents not just to listen to their neighbours, but to go into the school … and make an informed decision.”

Pitsa Binnion, principal of McKinnon Secondary College, a successful zoned school in Melbourne’s east, believes boundaries create some misconceptions.

“We have to de-mystify the boundary issue,” she said.

“Many parents … need to understand that wonderful things are happening in government schools (across the board).”

Opposition teaching profession spokesman Steve Herbert said the Government had undermined schools’ ability to provide for their communities by “slashing capital works funding”.

Footscray Steiner Stream axed

Footscray Steiner stream to be axed?

4 November, 2011

Mural at the Footscray City Primary School

By Andrew McKenna

Parents at Footscray City Primary School (FCPS) were shocked when in late October – and without consultation – the Education Department sacked the school council and declared they were closing the alternative Steiner curriculum.

One parent at the school said the reasons the Department gave for their moves were spurious.

“The Department implied there was disharmony in the community, which is far from my experience,” said Anna Ritman, who is also on the School Council.

“Some parents were unhappy about a recent event at school, but there has never been more harmony among the Steiner parents. And the Steiner and non-Steiner parents have been working together very well.”

No clear reasons

No clear reasons were given for the closure, and parents argue that the school council has provided effective leadership over the past two years, eliminating debt and establishing streamlined processes to address problems.

“None of which previous interim councils appeared to do when under direction from Western Metropolitan Region of the Education Department,” said Amelia Bartak, another parent at the school.

“Steiner parents have been particularly disappointed in the number of non-Steiner trained teachers appointed over the last couple of years for their classes. Similar schools in other regions don’t seem to have this problem, but such teachers at those schools are supported to undertake further specialist training as part of their contracts.”

The Department has told parents the closure “is in the best interests of the children”, but parents are questioning how – at just seven weeks from the end of the year – that can be the case.

Ms Ritman said she was devastated by the Regional Director’s “unilateral decision” to “cease the Steiner stream”.

FCPS in action

“This has a major impact on my four children and me,” she said.

“All of my children are currently happily enrolled in the Steiner stream and an integral part of the wonderful FCPS community.

“With no other Steiner choice available in Melbourne’s west, we are faced with making a major change in an incredibly short time – just seven weeks now until the end of the school year.”

She said that beyond the personal impact and inconvenience, she was affronted by the absence of process and consultation in the Department’s action.

“It is not consistent with what I believe a democracy is or should be,” she said.

“We have been given no reason other than that it is no longer in the best interests of student learning to run a dual-stream curriculum at the school.

“This has not been expanded upon or evidenced, and it is not my experience of the children at FCPS.

“It’s not just the Steiner families who have lost choice.  The families in the mainstream at FCPS chose the mainstream at FCPS – there are mainstream schools everywhere in the west, but only one dual stream school. This is about everyone’s freedom to choose. Freedom of choice and democratic right.”

Ulterior motives?

Another group of parents in Melbourne’s inner west has been campaigning for a high school in the region. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) recently held them out some hope through a tentative agreement, although no site is currently available – apart from Footscray City Primary School.

With the Steiner stream gone, low enrolment numbers at the school could compromise FCPS’s viability. It would be a convenient excuse to close the school at at time when demographers are warning the government that there is a critical shortage of schools in the inner city when planned developments for Footscray Road and further development at the Docklands will add to the burden on infrastructure.

A study by KPMG and Victoria University found that Melbourne’s so-called ‘Latte Line’ – the boundary of an aspirational and professional inner-city middle-class - is headed west.

This growth creates annual demand for 6,000 new houses, $1.2 billion in new mortgages, $200 million in new retail spending, scope for two new cinema screens, and demand for around 150 new nurses, 28 extra doctors and nine new dentists. And, presumably, new high schools.

One parent at FCPS wrote to Martin Dixon, Minister for Education:

To portray us as divided and unruly or unreasonable is unfair and a poor reflection on your department. This department does not like or want diversity. It has used a very heavy hand to control and circumvent our school council many times in the past. This department is not living up to the policy that the government wishes to deliver and the closure of the stream is the very worst example of this.

Rally to save the school

Ms Ritman said the parents at the school were not accepting the Department’s moves as a fait accompli, and were planning a rally and other actions to save the Steiner stream.

The rally will take place this Sunday, 6 November at 12 noon. Meet outside the Ministry of Education on Treasury Place, overlooking Treasury Gardens, before families gather for a picnic in the adjacent parkland at the Treasury Gardens, Melbourne.

“Keep the date free,” she said.

“And please encourage your friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, everyone who cares about your children and their education – to be there.

You can fill out an online petition.

SKYHigh parents left in limbo – Maribyrnong Leader

Malachy, 7, and brothers Henry, 5, and William, 2, with mum Samantha Phillips, are among families lobbying for a new high school. PIcture: DAVID SMITHYARRAVILLE father of three John Pawlus is still coming to terms with the news any school for SKY won’t come soon enough.

His eldest son, Malachy , is in grade 2 at Yarraville West and time is no longer on his side.

The Baillieu Government’s decision not to proceed with a new high school for the area and the fact the population projection figures will be recompiled reminds Ms Pawlus why the family joined the SKY High Working Group several years ago.

“I’m completely uncomfortable putting him on a bus, he’s still a child and it’s a big journey,” he said.

“Access to other secondary schools is not consistent, Maribyrnong College is partial select entry, it’s near impossible to get into Williamstown and Footscray College is a particular school that’s less academic.”

Mr Pawlus, who attended the recent meeting with Education Minister Martin Dixon, said the minister’s stance was frustrating and very disappointing.

“The number of cuts announced by the new government was always at the back of our minds going into the meeting,” he said.

But Mr Pawlus said it wasn’t the end for the campaigners. “There’ll be new leadership and there’ll always be a SKY until there’s a school,” he said.

Kingsville parent Che Stockley, whose son started prep at Kingsville Primary this year, said the news was a blow to a group which had worked so hard. “We think about (high school) a lot, you’ve got to plan, and if you know you’re going to have to travel, you start thinking about private schools and they have wait-lists,” she said.

“We’re in limbo.”

Link to story

Real low for Maribyrnong’s SKY High – Maribyrnong Leader

SKY High supporters, happier with their campaign last year. Picture: DAVID SMITH

They say that when you buy a new car, you start to see the same model everywhere.

Ten years ago, new mums and dads in the inner west began to realise they weren’t just noticing more babies, there were more babies.

Now, the lobby group SKY High, which started as 10 families and became 1200, is back at square one.

Education Minister Martin Dixon told SKY High Working Group recently a secondary school for Seddon, Kingsville, Yarraville just did not have the numbers.

The group thought they were meeting to discuss the options report, which detailed potential site locations and academic philosophies for their new school, not whether it should exist at all.

The State Government said Labor’s 2008 projections report showed the area fell short of the 1100 potential students needed to start discussions about a new high school.

Instead, Mr Dixon offered to look at ways to better use transport links and improve maintenance on existing secondary colleges.

Cr Martin Zakharov, involved with the group since the first whisperings of a need for another school, said it was frustrating

“It was disappointing to say the least, where do we go next?” he said.

“They’re delaying the inevitable, the numbers will be there, this is a waste of everyone’s time,” he said.


A Department spokesman said independent reporting put projected school demand in Seddon, Kensington, and Yarraville at about 800 students by 2021.

But Cr Zakharov said that calculation was based on 50 per cent attendance rate of eligible students at government secondary schools.

He said in reality the state average attendance at government schools was nearly 60 per cent and in the inner west more like 70 per cent.

“They’re playing statistical games,” he said.

When the 2008 projections were released, the group argued it was based on 2001 Census figures and out of date.

In the three years since, the inner west has continued to boom.

This year’s Census figures, to be taken on August 9, won’t be available for another year.

Former Education Minister Bronwyn Pike pushed the Education Department to conduct the student number projection and suggested a Year 7-9 school .

This was among options detailed in the report handed down at the meeting with Mr Dixon.

Others included expanding a local primary school to Year 9 or creating an off shoot campus of another school.

“We had the numbers for 7-9 but the Minister basically said ‘we don’t like them so you can’t look at that anymore’ – it’s just an excuse,” Cr Zakharov said.

He said within four to five years the government would have to respond to the growth.

Under pressure from the lobby group the government has agreed to review the report figures.


Going into the state election last November, SKY High believed they had support from both sides of politics.

But their first scheduled meeting since Mr Dixon took office was cancelled and numerous requests for a copy of the options report prior to the July 21 meeting were ignored.

Williamstown MP Wade Noonan who worked with the group over a number of years, said the back down was a clear snub.

He said promises of monthly meetings between SKY and the Education Department would come to nothing, as the department was the biggest opponent to the plan.

“The department’s focus was always on the middle and outer regions in the west and upgrading existing schools rather than establishing a new campus,” he said.

“They have a very rigid way of determining whether new schools ought to be given the green light and they don’t entertain lighting other options. The department only think creatively for as long as the Minister wants them to think creatively and he’s made his position pretty clear.”

Mr Noonan said transport options were the “barest minimum” the government could have offered to address the need.

Given the area’s current transport issues, Mr Noonan said he would not be holding his breath.

Link to story

SKYHigh: Setback for school bid, but parents push on – Maribyrnong Weekly

A move for a high school for children in Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville has been shelved indefinitely after Education Minister Martin Dixon said projected enrolments were too low.

Mr Dixon has met parents and representatives from the SKY High group to discuss the contents of a report outlining options for secondary schooling in the area.

The report had been kept under wraps. Two freedom of information requests by the Weekly to view the report were denied by the Education Department.

Parents were told at the meeting the state government would not be funding a years 7-9 school, and a 7-12 would not be considered unless long-term enrolment projections in the three suburbs reached 1100. The news is a setback for the six-year campaign for a high school, but representatives of SKY High say they will continue the push for a local secondary school.

“Look at the [growth in the] three primary schools in the SKY area; there are 17 classes for prep pupils,” SKY High president Susan Douglass said. “Our short term plan is to go back to the department with our own analysis of the report and start working on the numbers. It’s one step forward, two steps back.”

SKYHigh’s own survey this year showed that 184 children from Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville primary schools would attend 28 different secondary schools this year, breaking up childhood friendships formed during primary school.

Ms Douglass said the minister offered “to better utilise” transport links and improve maintenance to some existing secondary colleges.

The minister’s spokesman James Martin said it was agreed that the department would review the projected growth data. “The department also agreed to discuss with the Department of Transport the potential for future additional bus services for eligible students.

“Minister Dixon also committed to continuing to work with SKY High to monitor any future schooling needs in the area.”

SKYHigh will hold a public meeting at the Yarraville Club at 8pm on August 8 to decide its next moves.

Link to story

Silence on SKY high school baffles parents – Maribyrnong Weekly

Hands up those who want a school: Gabriel (front) and friends with the artwork they made in support of establishing a local high school.Parents in Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville are in an information vacuum after the Department of Education refused to release a vital report on options for a high school, and Education Minister Martin Dixon cancelled a meeting.

Parents in the SKY High group expected to be discussing the options for a secondary school in the area after a series of reports commissioned by the state government established the need for a local high school.

A report detailing a shortlist of options for secondary schooling was expected to be released early this year, but Mr Dixon has refused to say when it will be released.

A Weekly freedom of information request for the report was rejected.

“As the document contains a number of options, and is incomplete, disclosure in any event may mislead the public and lead to ill-informed public speculation or debate,” the response from FOI manager Neil Morrow stated. Janine Lloyd, spokeswoman for SKY High, which has been campaigning for six years for a high school in the area, said parents had been waiting for the next step after a report on potential options was produced in October last year.

“Our community expected that we would be discussing shortlisted options for meeting the recognised gap in secondary schools, with a view to establishing the preferred options.

“Reviewing this report is critical for SKY High to be informed for the meeting with the minister.”

The minister was scheduled to meet the group on Monday.

Williamstown MP Wade Noonan said the minister’s actions were not good enough.

“A failure to make public the options report, coupled with a decision to postpone the meeting, will not inspire confidence in the community.

“The options paper is already months overdue, so the community has a right to know how much longer they will have to wait before they start getting some straight answers.”

SKY High will discuss its next steps at a public meeting at 8pm on August 8 at the Yarraville Club, Stephen Street, Yarraville.

Link to story

SKYHigh meeting snub – Maribyrnong Leader

A LONG-awaited meeting between the Education Minister and the SKYHigh working group has been cancelled.

Education Minister Martin Dixon was to meet the campaigners for a high school in Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville last Thursday but his staffers postponed the meeting.

SKY spokeswoman Janine Lloyd said the cancellation was “difficult” to take after months of preparation. It would have been the first meeting between the new government and SKY.

“Our community expected we would currently be discussing short-listed options for meeting the recognised gap in secondary schools,” Ms Lloyd said.

She said a report outlining options for a secondary school was due for completion in January after stakeholders met last year to identify potential outcomes. The group is still unsure whether it will receive a copy of the report.

A spokesman for Mr Dixon said the meeting would be rescheduled as soon as possible. The spokesman did not respond to questions about the report.

There is a SKYHigh planning meeting, 8pm, Monday, August 8, at Yarraville Club, Stephen St, Yarraville.

Link to story

Children with the show of hands painting they were hoping to present to Education Minister Martin Dixon. Picture: DAVID SMITH

Numbers will not add up for schools – Sunday Herald Sun

A classroom crunch is looming at Victoria’s secondary schools as a baby boom pushes thousands of extra students through the primary ranks.

Families and experts have likened the education system to a time bomb, with the state’s bulging high schools unable to cope with the expected influx.

This year there are almost 8000 more students in prep than year 7 in state schools.

And the situation will escalate, with 12,000 more babies born in Victoria last year than a decade ago.

RMIT planning expert Michael Buxton said the closure of hundreds of inner-suburban schools had combined with a decade of rapid population growth to produce a perfect storm.

“This has been a sleeper issue for a number of years and I suspect that we’re now in for a very rude awakening,” Prof Buxton said.

Nowhere is the secondary school shortage more critical than Melbourne’s inner suburbs, where families are commonly forced to send their children to schools several suburbs away once they finish primary schooling.

Principals have complained about disappearing playgrounds as portable classrooms are trucked in to deal with soaring numbers.

About 37 per cent of the new arrivals will be absorbed by independent schools, leaving the Department of Education to accommodate the rest.

While the department said it had undertaken “sophisticated demographic modelling” on future education needs, it confirmed it had plans for only four schools.

Only one – Torquay Secondary College – will be a stand-alone school for years 7 to 12. Two will be prep to year 9 and the other for special-needs students.

The department refused to reveal its enrolment growth forecasts or when the new schools would open.

“When schools reach capacity the department provides relocatable buildings (for) additional students,” spokeswoman Megan McNaught said.

But relocatables are little comfort for parents in suburbs such as Richmond, where there has not been a co-educational state high school since Richmond Secondary College closed in 1992.

The school — later replaced by Melbourne Girls’ College – was among the first of more than 400 closed by the Kennett, Bracks and Brumby governments from 1992.

Richmond High School Choices — a parents’ group lobbying for a school in the area — said 92 per cent of Richmond’s girls who finished grade six in 2009 were still in the public system, while only 61 per cent of the suburb’s boys were still receiving a state education.

“We have four primary schools all bursting at the seams and just one secondary school for girls only,” group spokeswoman Virginia Dods said.

Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly said increased urban density and the desire of families to stay in the area had made the situation “a time bomb”.

“It has been ticking away for 15 years but it has been easy for governments to just hope it would go away,” Cr Jolly said.

It is a similar story in Coburg, after the Bracks Government closed Moreland City College in 2004, leaving the suburb without a year 7-12 school.

The battle has also been raging in the inner west, where parents from Seddon, Newport, Kingsville and Yarraville have been calling for a new high school.

Templestowe’s Julie Pastore, who has a daughter in prep, said a lack of secondary schools was the topic on every parent’s lips in the middle-ring suburbs.

“We are all concerned about the great unknown — what is going to happen in six or seven years’ time,” Ms Pastore said.

Australian Education Union secretary Mary Bluett is among those who say ballooning class sizes, shrinking playgrounds and declining educational standards are inevitable unless significant resources are thrown at the problem immediately.

Opposition education spokesman Rob Hulls accused the new government of ignoring the looming crisis, saying Labor would have built seven new schools over the next three years if it was still in power.

But Education Minister Martin Dixon put the blame back on to Labor, saying the previous government had pushed for population growth but “planning wasn’t keeping up”.

Mr Dixon cited Melbourne’s southeastern growth corridor, where Pakenham Secondary College was the sole state high school.

“Out there is a situation where there is 60 per cent of students in the independent school system – way above the state average of 37 per cent,” he said.

The Coalition had committed four times as much money as the previous government buying land for schools, he said.

While Mr Dixon said he was confident in the Government’s ability to meet demand for state schooling, he admitted he had seen no enrolment growth forecasts since coming to power.

“I don’t know how much will be needed over the next 10 years … I know that based on current projections, the sorts of things we announced in this year’s budget … would be a fairly typical year based on the figures we have now,” he said.

Portable classrooms are rapidly taking over the spaces where Victorian children used to play.

At Port Melbourne Primary School – where student enrolments have leapt from 122 in 2002 to 448 this year – principal Peter Martin has grown used to the steady arrival of relocatables.

“Based on the current growth rates and unless a new school is built in the area soon, my school oval will disappear under a sea of relocatable classrooms within three years,” Mr Martin said.

With enrolments expected to reach 784 by 2015, Mr Martin is worried about what will happen to his youngest pupils once they finish grade 6.

By then his 130 grade 6 graduates will be competing with students at three other primary schools for the 150 year 7 places on offer at Albert Park College, which opened this year and is already at capacity.

Across the Yarra River at Kingsville, Steve and Jo Hansby have three children aged 5, 7 and 9 but no local secondary schools.

“Kids from the local primary schools are now going to 13 or 14 different high schools and that is fracturing the community and putting strain on families,” Mr Hansby said.

Photo credit: Tony Gough Herald Sun
Steve and Jo Hansby – with children Alex, 9, Petra, 7, and Marcus, 5 – are concerned about the lack of secondary schools in their area. Picture: Tony Gough


Link to story

Inner schools a high priority – Sunday Herald Sun

IN THE early 1990s, it was fashionable to shut and sell high schools in many inner-city suburbs.

Families were moving into the growth corridors and the money was needed elsewhere, so the theory went.

But in 2011, this policy is looking shortsighted.

Today, many suburbs stripped of high schools are on the cusp of a wave of secondary students.

Thousands of extra children are working their way through the primary system and within a few years will be looking for secondary schools to attend. But they don’t exist. Some parents will opt for expensive private schools.

The Baillieu Government must address this looming crisis as a matter of urgency.

Link to story

Picture: Norm Oorloff. Herald Sun
Many suburbs stripped of high schools are on the cusp of a wave of secondary students. Picture: Norm Oorloff. Herald Sun

SKY group in high level talks – Star News

The SKYHigh working group will meet with State Education Minister Martin Dixon this week to discuss options for a new high school within the Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville (SKY) area.

The group is pinning its hopes on Mr Dixon to increase secondary education within the SKY area, with Mr Dixon supportive of the group’s aims while he was shadow Education Minister.

SKYHigh spokesperson Janine Lloyd told Star the Department of Education has outlined viable options for meeting this need in a report,which will be discussed in this week’s meeting.

The City of Maribyrnong has four public secondary colleges – Braybrook College, Maribyrnong College, Footscray College and Gilmore Girls College, a girls-only school – leaving a co-educational gap around the SKY area.

Footscray Yarraville High School and a Catholic High School on Somerville Rd served students within SKY until the early 1990s, when they were shut down.

SKYHigh projections estimate more than 1000 Maribyrnong high school students will not have a place in a permanent classroom by 2022.

The projections show a 30 per cent increase in births around Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville (SKY) since 2005/06 will boost secondary school enrolments in the next decade, and predicts that demand for secondary college places in Maribyrnong will exceed supply by 2015.

SKYHigh will also present Mr Dixon with a canvas created by SKY High children which represents them raising their hand for a local high school.

“Our children really own the need for a local high school,” Ms Lloyd said.

“They understand that secondary college is the next step in their education after primary school and they want to attend a high school with their friends.”

Link to story