PARENTS of Hamilton SHS kids should start checking out bus routes to South Freo.
WA education minister Peter Collier may have declared “hand on heart” to 200 local locals at a Freo town hall meeting Wednesday no decision had been made about amalgamations, but it was clear the Hamilton Hill school’s days are numbered.
Speaker after speaker from the Freo-centric crowd talked up South Freo SHS’s ability to punch above its low student numbers, or exhorted the minister to crank up its academic program.
Mr Collier said he’d “like to see it emerge in specialist areas like sustainability”. No-one there spoke up for poor old Hammy—the long-neglected school barely cracked a mention.
A key theme to emerge from the meeting was any amalgamated or new high school must enrol 1200 students to qualify for a decent raft of ATAR subjects.
Even combined, South Freo and Hamilton have just over 800 students enrolled, meaning the WA education department must offer something juicy to lure back the hundreds of local families who send their kids elsewhere.
Fremantle councillor Dave Coggin, whose two kids attend White Gum Valley primary school, sums it up as as a” chicken and egg” prospect.
He wants to send his kids to a local public high school but is nervous about promises of academic rigour stumbling and South Freo reverting to a vocational focus.
Education department planning chief Lindsay Hale said there was the possibility further down the track of building a new high school in Atwell, or expanding Lakelands, to accommodate the burgeoning population growth in Cockburn’s southern suburbs.
Premier Colin Barnett was at the meeting, which many commended as a sign his government is taking the issue seriously.
He told the crowd that when he was education minister in Richard Court’s government he had come to realise amalgamations needed cash thrown at them. He flagged even a simple merger would cost $40 million, while a new school would cost around $70m.
Labor MP Simone McGurk asked Mr Barnett why no money had been earmarked in the Budget for the process: he replied he expected the cash to come from the sale of assets (and we took that to mean the government would flog the land of whichever of the two schools was to close).
The meeting also highlighted the deep divisions between local parents.
Lobby group High School Options for Fremantle has strongly argued for John Curtin’s local intake to be opened up, but parents of kids there now warn against the move, as do South Freo parents.
South Freo parent committee president Rachel Robertson, describing Options as a “small” lobby group, is concerned opening John Curtin will further drain her school’s numbers.
Mal Kenny, who has a child at John Curtin, expressed concern about diluting the school’s gifted arts programs with ordinary locals.
Mr Collier told the crowd the meeting marked the end of the consultation process and he would discuss the issue with the premier over the next week, with a decision “I imagine” made by the end of the year.
by STEVE GRANT