Colin Barnett and education minister Peter Collier made a flying visit to four local high schools Tuesday, but deny any are on the chopping block—yet.
The pair visited South Fremantle and Hamilton high schools, John Curtin College of the Arts and North Lake Senior Campus.
In August Mr Barnett had flagged some southern suburbs’ schools would likely close or be amalgamated because of a lack of “academic quality programs”. This week he was quick to deflect questions to Mr Collier, who said concerned parents shouldn’t, “read anything into the visits”.
“There is no definitive time at all,” the minister told the Herald. “This is first part of the process as we have been to the relevant schools in the area, then we will consult with the community as a whole and parent groups. We will then make a decision.
“There is an appetite for change and an appetite for shift. We wouldn’t do this if there wasn’t an appetite for change.”
Traci Gamblin of the South Fremantle-based parents’ group High School Options says the lack of academic options is the issue, not the number of schools.
“Fremantle families deserve a high school where the full range of academic courses are available, excellent results are achieved, and where Fremantle students can attend together as a community.
“We call on the minister to open more local intake places at John Curtin while working with the community on a long- term plan to improve academic programs at South Fremantle.”
East Fremantle primary P&C president Tim Kucera—the son of former WA Labor minister Bob—echoes the call for more local places to be opened up at John Curtin, which reserves many spaces for specialist program enrolments.
“You just can’t close schools and pile everyone into together,” Mr Kucera says.
“Kids at East Freo primary walk pass John Curtin every day to go to school. They can see the roof of the school but their local in fact is South Fremantle.
“Why can’t they go to their local school?”
Fremantle state Labor MP Simone McGurk says the premier’s comments in August and conduct since then is a text book example of how not to handle sensitive change.
by BRENDAN FOSTER