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School is a step closer

28 May 2013

School is a step closer Image

By Bethany Williams

Docklands is a step closer to securing its own local primary school.

Places Victoria last month announced that it would seek bid proposals for the development and operation of a privately-run primary school in Docklands.

A 2050 sqm site near the corner of Harbour Esplanade and Dudley St, in Digital Harbour, has been earmarked for the project.

While the news has been welcomed, some have questioned why the State Government hasn’t moved to deliver a public school for Docklands’ growing population.

Resident, parent and Docklands Community Forum representative Janine Stanfield said she welcomed any school because it would help to build the community.

However, she said she would continue to encourage the Education Department to consider the need for a public, inclusive school in Docklands.

She also urged the department to reconsider school zoning in Docklands in the meantime.

Ms Stanfield began campaigning for a local, public primary school when she found out her now six-year-old son wasn’t zoned to attend any local state school.

Fortunately, he had been accepted into a private school in South Melbourne, but this too was at capacity.

It’s a familiar story for many Docklands families, with children having to travel considerable differences each day to get to schools that are just about bursting at the seams.

A Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) feasibility study assessing the need for a school in the Docklands and North Melbourne area is yet to be released.

A DEECD spokesperson said the department was working with the relevant agencies to plan to meet the future infrastructure needs of the growing Docklands community.

“DEECD plans for new schools through the regular monitoring of residential growth, demographic change and enrolment trends, to ensure that all schools demonstrate viable long-term enrolments,” the spokesperson said.

“To enable the ideal breadth of curriculum and adequate classroom sizes within schools, government primary schools require a minimum long term enrolment of 450 students.”

The spokesperson said the department had identified areas with a higher immediate demand for schools than Docklands, which had been identified in the state budget.

In the 2013-14 budget, the State Government has funded the land acquisition, planning and site preparation for a new primary school in Ferrars St, South Melbourne.

Although the Docklands feasibility study is yet to be released, it’s widely accepted amongst Docklanders that the need for a local primary school is apparent, with many families moving out of Docklands when their children reach school age.

According to Places Victoria CEO Peter Seamer, Docklands is currently home to around 8000 residents and its population of children aged 14 and under is predicted to reach 750 by 2016.

Mr Seamer said a school was identified as a top priority for the community during consultation for the Docklands Community and Place Plan, released last year.

The Docklands Community Forum has also identified a primary school as a priority.

Docklands Community Association president and forum representative Roger Gardner said the news of a school was good for Docklands.

“We’re all agreed that we need a school. It’s overdue and we’re pleased with Places Victoria’s action,” Mr Gardner said.

Due to the size of the identified site, Places Victoria is seeking a vertical model for the school.

The school could be either a stand-alone development or part of a larger integrated development.

Places Victoria is encouraging proposals that will make a positive contribution to the community.

Bid proposals must be submitted by June 14, with the outcome likely to be announced in mid-to-late 2013.

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