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Public Education

(Question, 8 March 2018, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)

My question is to the Minister for Education.

Given: Woollahra and Waverley councils; parents; and the CLOSE East community group have identified rapidly growing needs for high school capacity in the eastern suburbs: Will you work with local councils and parents to plan for and secure a new high school site in the east to meet future demand?

Mr ROB STOKES (PittwaterMinister for Education): I thank the member for Sydney for his question and for his passion for public education in his community and across eastern Sydney. The member for Coogee and the member for Vaucluse share his passion for improved public education facilities in the city's east. I acknowledge the wonderful advocacy of the CLOSEast Community Group, the Community for Local Options for Secondary Education in Sydney's east. I had the opportunity to hear a wonderful presentation by Licia Heath, who is one of the organisers of CLOSEast. I acknowledge their passionate and well-argued advocacy for the better provision of public education facilities in Sydney's east.

Recently the member for Vaucluse and I attended the opening of the refurbished Bellevue Hill Public School. The refurbishment preserved and restored the heritage parts of the school. A whole new wing was also established, doubling the school's capacity. I acknowledge the great advocacy of Principal Sue Bennett, who has a prodigious history of being a leader in public education. Earlier this week the member for Coogee and I inspected progress at the Randwick Public School. Amazing work is being done there. We were interviewed by Isabel, one of the student reporters from the student magazine. The Randwick Public School and Rainbow Street Public School will receive an extra 35 permanent classrooms to accommodate the increasing demand for public education in Sydney's east.

The question pertained specifically to secondary education, but it is important to speak about the totality of new infrastructure in Sydney's east. In secondary education it is important to acknowledge we have inherited some challenges. It is well documented that the former Labor Government closed no fewer than four public high schools in Sydney's east—Maroubra High School, Randwick North High School, Vaucluse High School. Bob Carr sold that school for a reported $35 million; I suspect that school site would be worth upwards of $200 million today. The Dover Heights High School, which was consolidated, ultimately closed as well.

That legacy of Labor's decision to sell those public high schools has led to some significant constraints. We are working with the community and local schools. In the Vaucluse electorate we have identified that the Rose Bay Secondary College has capacity, in the Coogee electorate the Randwick Boys High School and Randwick Girls High School also have capacity, in the Heffron electorate the JJ Cahill Memorial High School also has capacity. Overall, there is capacity for another 1,500 enrolments across those schools. Nonetheless, we are still working with the community to deliver two comprehensive public high schools at Alexandria Park. That high school is currently under construction and 1,000 students will have an opportunity to attend the school. The inner city high school on the site of the Cleveland Street Intensive English High School, which is one of the most beautiful gothic revival school buildings in the country, will accommodate approximately 1,200 high school students.

The Government has a plan and it is working together with the school community.

In the time I have remaining, I emphasise the incredible advocacy and wonderful examples of local members, community groups and school communities working together. Earlier this week I met with the member for Coogee and one of his local high school principals, who talked about using innovation to attract more students to excellent local high schools. While this Government stands ready to provide the infrastructure necessary to support increasing enrolments, ultimately the quality of schools depends on the excellence of the teaching staff. In Sydney's east we have some incredible, hardworking teachers who are committed to serving the young people in their care and helping them to gain the skills they need to make a real contribution to our community.