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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
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
SKYHigh Working Group media release
Inner West students ignored again – DEECD stands by flawed report
The Seddon Kingsville Yarraville (SKY) High Working Group (WG) has been officially advised the by the Department of Education (DEECD) that they will not be building a high school in SKY. The DEECD believes there is sufficient public high school capacity in the existing high schools in Melbourne’s inner west.
SKYHigh spokesperson Ms. Janine Lloyd says that “the finding is based on a seriously flawed provision report that appears to be designed to understate future enrolments in SKY”. SKYHigh has provided three critiques of the DEECD’s report to correct obvious errors. The DEECD’s final report actually forecasts a decrease in the number of SKY high school aged children despite a background increase in local population” says Ms. Lloyd. The DEECD has not provided a satisfactory explanation for their forecast decline.
The DEECD’s finding is at clear odds with 78% of 2011 grade 6 children attending a public high school. With 2,000 children enrolled in the four SKY primary schools, this equates to 1,560 children who need a local public high school, well over the 1,100 threshold set for a new school by DEECD. Ms. Lloyd says that the DEECD report “does not pass any basic reality test”, especially when SKYHigh forecasts Maribyrnong permanent capacity will be exceeded in 2016.
Over the past two years, SKYHigh representatives have repeatedly requested meetings with Minister Dixon to discuss the need for a local SKY high school. Minister Dixon has never responded. The 1,500 families that make up SKYHigh feel that there is no option now but to mount a political campaign. Ms. Lloyd says that “we would prefer to continue to work with the DEECD, but they are not willing to consider the gross inaccuracies in their reported modelling, and Minister Dixon won’t even respond to our meeting requests”.
Despite Premier Ted Baillieu’s recognition of local services being a necessity for his government’s vision of a 20-minute city (in the soon to be released planning scheme), SKY children continue to be disadvantaged with no local high school. SKY children have to travel “further than any other metro Melbourne child to get to the nearest co-educational high school” says Ms. Lloyd.
It just doesn’t make sense that western Melbourne private high schools are increasing their enrolment capacity with new buildings and infrastructure, yet the State Government chooses to honour the findings of a flawed EECD report that states there is no need for more co-education high school capacity in Melbourne’s inner West.
Media Enquiries: Janine Lloyd m: 0424 646 595 e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: CHARLENE MACAULAY, Star Community Footscray, Yarraville, Braybrook Jan 22, 2013
THE Education Department has told the SKY High Working group that the Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville region does not need a new high school.
Senior Education Department officers delivered their verdict to SKY High representatives late last month, and will brief Education Minister Martin Dixon in coming weeks.
“The Education Minister is aware the Department met with SKY High at the end of December 2012, and is waiting for a briefing from the Education Department in relation to secondary education provision in the Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville (SKY) area,” Ashley Gardiner from Minister Dixon’s office said.
Mr Gardiner told Star that an area like Seddon, Kingsville and Yarraville had to meet a number of requirements for a new school to be opened.
Mr Gardiner says the Education Department sources the latest population figures and forecasts in order to determine future government school demand, and also requires a long-term enrolment threshold of 1100 students to consider opening a new high school.
In a status posted on its Facebook page, the SKY High Working Group said it rejected the department’s findings.
Janine Lloyd from the SKY High Working Group could not be contacted for further comment last week.
Western Metropolitan MP Bernie Finn said he was unaware of the Education Department’s ruling.
“My understanding is that the SKY High people have a pretty strong case, and I think that with the rejuvenation of the West, an even stronger case,” he said.
“I can’t see how the department can ignore that.”