Hon Dr Dennis Napthine
1 Treasury Place
23 April 2013
Dear Premier Napthine,
SKY community’s urgent need for a feasibility study into local public high school
I am the president of the SKYHigh Working Group – a community group of 1,400 families in the Seddon, Kingsville, Yarraville area passionate about public education in Melbourne’s inner west. For the past two years we have been working with the Department of Education to assess the need for a public high school in our local area. Through that time, the Department’s consultants produced a number of draft School Provision Reviews of the Maribyrnong Network. Each of these reports was made available to the SKYHigh working group for review. Our independent analyses have demonstrated a number of flaws in the adopted methods and have shown clearly that many of the conclusions drawn in the reports are not supported by the data. For example, forecasts of 2011 primary school enrolments in the SKY neighbourhood published by the Education Department in 2010 were 34% or 663 children below the actual enrolments less than a year later. For one of our schools, their estimate was 80% below the actual enrolments. On the other hand, we found it a simple exercise to add in new preps, subtract the graduating Grade 6 students and keep the other grades at about the same numbers to estimate within 2% the 2011 enrolments from the 2010 data.
On 21 December 2012, members of the group and I attended a meeting with a number of Department bureaucrats. We had been invited to the meeting to be told that despite the demonstrably flawed school provision review and despite the overwhelming evidence generated from within our community for a local high school, it was the Education Department’s view that there was no case for SKYHigh.
Our community is astounded that your Minister and his Department insist on standing by a report that predicts a future decrease in high school enrolments in the SKY area, when we know in fact and have repeatedly pointed out to the Department that:
• our kindergartens are full;
• over 2,000 children are enrolled in our local, zoned primary schools;
• 78% of our grade six children attended a public high school last year;
• our children go to 35 different high schools; and
• our children travel further than any other child in Melbourne to get to their closest high school.
Premier, we have asked Minister Dixon many times where he thinks our 1,560 kids, that need a local public high school, should go to get an education. But he won’t answer us! That’s right, despite numerous requests, your Minister for Education refuses to meet with representatives of his community to discuss the central plank of his Ministry – the education of our children.
We have a legitimate need for a high school in the SKY area but have been frozen out of the Department’s flawed process and ignored by our elected leaders. For some considerable time, now, we have strived to work within the Education Department’s and the Minister’s process but have been met with platitudes and feigned engagement. This, while many of our frustrated membership have advocated a far more militant approach and active political campaign. Make no mistake, though, we are committed to finding a workable solution for the continuing education needs of the inner west, and the Maribyrnong Network. Its time the Department commissioned the feasibility study that a more considered interpretation of the demographic data demands.
The 1,400 registered SKYHigh families reject your Minister’s decision and are ready to mobilise our community behind the SKYHigh cause. In the meantime, we remain ready to discuss our concerns directly with you, or Minister Dixon. A simple meeting with two or three representatives of the SKYHigh Working Group will do much to retain the engagement of the SKY community. We want your government working actively with our community on the issues that affect our lives.
President, SKYHigh Working Group