Students' lives 'ripped' up
Fortitude Valley State School parents react with anger to a "short term decision" to close their school but the LNP insists the decision is "not about making money".PT2M39S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2txxd 620 349 September 18, 2013
In the end, the fate of eight Queensland schools came down to five criteria.
Enrolments, accessibility, curriculum, the cost of educating each student and the submissions communities put forward to save their school.
Two were successful; Everton Park State High School and Wyreema State School will stay open. The remaining six will close down for good at the end of the 2013 school year.
Sue Ellis and Lauren Millard fought for Everton Park State High School's survival. They received good news this week. Photo: Harrison Saragossi
Tenders for the land will open once the schools have been vacated. The money the government raises from their sales will go to opening 10 new schools – two secondary and eight primary – in areas identified by the Schools Planning Commission 20-year demand map.
The first of the new schools will open in 2015.
The schools that didn't meet the governments criteria will close on Friday, December 13.
At 115 years old, Charlton State School, near Toowoomba, is one of the state's oldest. But of the 70 students it has capacity for, only 32 were enrolled.
Fortitude Valley State School, which was established in 1861, will also close, meaning 56 students [out of a capacity of 91] will need to find a new primary school.
Toowoomba South, which was formed by the amalgamation of the 1865 Toowoomba South Boys School and the 1869 Toowoomba South Girls and Infants School in 1981, will also close. Its enrolment had dropped to just 70 from a capacity of 311 and only 10 per cent of resident students attended it.
Nyanda State High School, which was created after Acacia Ridge State High merged with Salisbury High in 1998, had 297 students enrolled out of a 696 capacity.
Stuart State School, which was established 20 kilometres south-west of the Townsville CBD in 1891, had 88 students enrolled, but the capacity for 356.
Old Yarranlea State School, situated within the Mount Gravatt Griffith University campus was a bit of a special case. It held 18 students, with the capacity to enrol six more, but also provided practical teaching opportunities for Griffith's education students.
All up, about 500 students and 100 teachers will be starting new schools next year, against their will.
Everton Park State High School acknowledged it was “not viable in its current form” in its submission to the government, but offered to reduce its footprint – meaning, reducing its land space, allow third party access and work to increase its enrolment.
It worked. Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said the school will give up about seven hectares of its 10 hectare campus, but would remain open.
Wyreema State School was helped by information provided by the council, which alerted the government to additional sub divisions and developments which were planned for the school's Toowoomba catchment area.
Mr Langbroek said the decision to close schools was not made lightly.
“There are two things that I want to make very clear. Closures are not about making money. Any money that comes from the disposal will be poured back into bricks and mortar in our education department and into our schools," he said.
“I also want to make it very clear that these schools will be the only schools to close down in this term of government. The only other schools that could potentially close are voluntary school closures, where the enrolment goes down to virtually none or goes down to none.”
Transition plans for students have been put in place – parents with students in Prep to Year 6 will receive $500 for incidentals and uniform costs, while parents with high school students, except those currently in Year 12 are eligible for a $750 allowance.
The School Transport Assistance Scheme will kick in for students who will now live more than 3.2 kilometres away from their nearest primary school or 4.8 kilometres from their nearest high school.
“We want to make sure we have an individual transition plan for every student.” Mr Langbroek said.
“Whether it is about their health and well being, whether it is about transport issues, whether it is about whatever school they wish to go to, we'll make sure that we go above and beyond whatever the local parents expect for us to take care of those families.”
But the Opposition says it is not good enough.
The previous Labor government closed 139 schools over 20 years.
But deputy Labor leader Tim Mulherin said they had followed a process that minimised impact.
“What Mr Langbroek has done is muddled in the consultation process, he's closed the consultation process [early] by two weeks, he said he'd have a decision by July, but he put that off because of LNP interests, that is the looming federal election," he said.
“The real reason for the closure of these schools is all to do with real estate.
“He should get on his bike and eyeball these parents and students and tell them about his shoddy decision making process.”
Deputy Secretary of the Queensland Teachers' Union, Kate Ruttiman, said she heard of the closure decision through the media and was still considering the consultants reports used to help Mr Langbroek make his decision.
“We are a little bit surprised by a couple of the schools,” Ms Ruttiman said.
“Fortitude Valley for example is in a growth area, Charlton is in a growth area - we know there is expected to be some significant growth in that particular area in the coming years.
“There are meant to be about 14,000 jobs opening in that area in the next four to five years.
“Nyanda State High School is also one of those schools that is close to the train line, is in a low socio-economic area, is one of those schools which has been part of the national-partnership agreement and have been investing significantly in successes for their students.
“So when we are talking about looking at our communities and making sure that there is public education there, the responsibility of this government is to ensure there is a viable, quality public education system and in closing them in these communities, that obviously are of need, it is not appropriate.”
The consultant reports can be read here.