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No funding for local, public school

26 Apr 2016

No funding for local, public school Image

Don’t hold your breath on news of a local school in this year’s state budget.

Local lobby group City Schools 4 City Kids says government representatives have advised them that there would be no money in this year’s budget to solve the Docklands and inner-city schools crisis.

The Docklands-based group, founded by local parents Michelle Styles and Denise Fung-Henderson, met with representatives from Department of Education and Training (DET) and Education Minister James Merlino’s office last month.

“I think it’s sad that generation after generation of children in Docklands are missing out,” Ms Styles said.

“If they don’t commit the funds, even for planning, in this budget, it’s just being delayed further and further.”

“You haven’t just got Docklands, you’ve got Arden-Macauley, E-Gate, Fishermans Bend.”

For Ms Fung-Henderson, the lack of decisive action on a local school comes down to politics.

“We’re not a marginal seat, that’s the bottom line,” she said. “There’s no political will to do it,” she said.

The Education Department did not answer questions about whether any funding would be committed to a Docklands or inner-city school in this year’s budget.

While there's not expected to be any funding in this year’s budget for an inner-city school, the Docklands school provision review is moving into stage two.

But City Schools 4 City Kids still holds concerns about the accuracy of stage one of the review.

Both Ms Styles and Ms Fung-Henderson say data published in the stage one school provision review report, released in February, does not accurately reflect current enrolment levels at schools Docklands children are zoned for.

Both Ms Styles and Ms Fung-Henderson are part of the review community reference group and say they raised issues with the data used when reviewing the draft report.

“A few of us who reviewed the draft report believed the data was flawed, yet the same data was used in the final report,” Ms Styles said.

“It just underestimates the problem we have.”

Ms Styles also raised issue with the fact the forecasts used in the report were formulated by the education department itself rather than an independent body.

Education Department spokesperson Steve Tolley said the stage one report included a range of robust data from independent population experts, school level data and department data.

“There is a range of analyses in the report, which includes examination of historic enrolment trends and forecasted growth. The analysis in the report has been conducted by independent consultants with data expertise.”

“Taken collectively, the data is a robust estimate of future demand for schools within the study area and we make every effort to ensure they provide as accurate a picture as possible in order to effectively plan for the future,” Mr Tolley said.

“Stage one found that although schools in the area have enough room to meet current demands, some areas are beginning to reach capacity and more room will be needed by 2031. It also found that the location of schools means some areas are better catered for than others.”

“It is this increase in demand that had led to stage two of the study getting underway. It will look at options to better meet the needs of Docklands residents.”

“The department will carefully consider any issues raised by the Community Reference Group or the wider community,” Mr Tolley said.

According to the stage one review, there will be demand for up to 565 primary school and 240 secondary school places in Docklands by 2035. However, the trend for Docklands families to move out of the area once their children reach school age means the number could be much higher if a local school were available.

“The (forecast) number will never be the real number,” Ms Fung-Henderson said.

“If you look at the playgroup number and eventually the primary school number, for every family who chooses to stay there are at least three or four families who choose to move out.”

“The number could be five times what it is (if there were a local school available).”

City Schools 4 City Kids says it will continue to campaign for local primary and secondary schools and are planning a number of events including a “design your dream school” competition. See our story on page 15.

“We’ve already received over 1000 signatures on our petition calling for money in the 2016 budget for a city school,” Ms Styles said.

Ms Styles called for anyone yet to sign the petition to do so online at http://www.cityschools4citykids.com

“The more signatures we have the more support we can show the government we have,” Ms Styles said.

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