WA education shadow Paul Papalia says transforming South Fremantle Senior High into an academically gifted and talented school will repair the school’s reputation and increase local enrolments.
On Tuesday Labor leader Mark McGowan announced he would, if elected premier, pour $3 million into the Lefroy Road school, creating the state’s first Future Science Centre.
The funds will upgrade two existing science rooms and build a new one. South Freo would become one of 10 gifted and talented schools in WA.
Over the past five years the number of students at the school has plummeted, with local parents intent on a university pathway reluctant to send their kids there.
Mr Papalia says there are a lot of unfair myths about the school, which has a strong connection to the local community and which engages in innovation such as carbon-neutrality.
“I’m sceptical about the the criticisms of the school, as I think a lot of that is historical,” he told the Herald. “But aside from that you can change the whole view of the school very rapidly. Comet Bay College in my electorate became a gifted and talented school three years ago and now it’s one of the most sought after schools in the whole of Rockingham.
“Not that long ago it was the last place parents wanted to send their kids.”
If Labor beats the odds and wins on March 9 Mr Papalia says 30 kids will start the GATE program next year.
School P&C vice-president Sonia Martinez says South Freo has bags of potential.
“It has some of the best marine and sustainability programs and I think we can build on that,” she says. “It will give parents the reassurance they need to get past that perception you need to go to private school to get a good education.”
by BRENDAN FOSTER