(Private Members Statement, 11.56am 28 November 2013, Legislative Assembly)
With more families with children moving into and staying in the inner city there is a growing need for increased and updated education infrastructure. I draw the attention of the House to the results achieved in inner-city education since I became the member for Sydney a year ago.
In my first week I met with the Minister for Education, Department of Education and Communities representatives, Lord Mayor Clover Moore and City of Sydney Chief Executive Officer Monica Barone to discuss the shortage of primary and secondary public school places. In response to my question, the Minister established the Inner City Schools Working Party, which includes representatives of the Department of Education and Communities, the City of Sydney and the Ultimo Public School Parents and Citizens Association in the first instance.
The working party was first to address the primary education needs of the Pyrmont-Ultimo area and then move on to address the need for increased high school places. Ultimo Public School is at capacity with 307 students and the catchment area is growing rapidly, with 898 more babies born in inner Sydney in 2011 compared with five years earlier, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. As Kirsty Needham reported in the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year:
- Families are no longer moving out in search of big backyards but are staying put, enjoying the great parks, access to the best museums, swimming centres, convenient shopping for time-poor working parents, and the company of lots of other young children.
Following a detailed and cooperative process, the working party reported on three options at the end of August: redevelop the Ultimo site; build a larger school in Ultimo; or build a new larger school. In response to my September question, the Minister confirmed that the Department of Education and Communities is now working on a business case for a new or expanded primary school in the Pyrmont and Ultimo area. Yesterday the department reported that it would seek funding in next year's budget to build a new and bigger Ultimo public school able to cater for 1,000 students on the former City of Sydney Wattle Street depot site. This option was unanimously supported by the Inner Sydney Schools Working Party. I congratulate all those who have worked on this project.
The Ultimo Public School community deserves credit for its work to resolve this matter, and I commend the cooperative approach taken by all. I believe that the community's proactive and helpful approach, including taking departmental officers on tours of key sites, helped to achieve progress. I will be pushing for child care, including after-school care, to be provided on the new site. There are huge waiting lists for access to these vital supports for families with children. Just this week another constituent contacted me saying he or his partner would have to give up work because there is no child care available. The working party process will now address increased comprehensive public high school needs in the inner city. It will be vital that parent and community groups, such as the Community for Local Options for Secondary Education [CLOSE], are invited to participate in and contribute to their local knowledge to the process. Based on my dealings with the Community for Local Options for Secondary Education, I know that it will be cooperative and proactive in driving the action that is needed.
In response to my question earlier this year, the Minister for Planning and Infrastructure agreed to work with the Minister for Education to ensure that Central to Eveleigh precinct redevelopment proposals include consideration of childcare and educational facilities. While this development is some time off, this site should be considered as an option by the working party. Currently, students in my electorate have limited public high school options, with central Sydney schools at capacity or facing massive new enrolments. Catchment boundaries have been altered as a short-term solution. The Minister for Education agreed to my calls to consider greater access to selective high schools for local students, and the Department of Education and Communities is reviewing this policy.
According to a recent Reachtel poll I commissioned, increasing the local student intake at selective schools, such as Sydney Boys High School, is supported by nearly 90 per cent of my electorate. I hope this option provides some short-term relief. Many more students in my electorate will now attend Alexandria Park Community School. Following my visits to meet the school principal, teachers, students, and the parents and citizens association I have asked for the school to be provided with direct bus services and important senior campus facilities upgrades. The Sydney electorate's many and diverse families have built a strong sense of community. It is vital to have infrastructure in place and to plan now for future child care and school needs in order to strengthen that community. I commend the department, the Minister, the City of Sydney and all the parent and community groups in the Sydney electorate for this collaborative work to achieve these outcomes. I call on the New South Wales Government to urgently fund a new Ultimo Public School.