Opinion Ignored

by Cate Hall

This is HSC's response to the Minister for Education, Bronwyn Pike's comments in the Moreland Leader (Pike says Coburg School may not be used - Moreland Leader - 01/02/2010). An edited version was published in the letters section of the Moreland leader on 08/02/2010.
While High School for Coburg (HSC) thanks Minister for Education Bronwyn Pike for agreeing to MP Christine Campbell's call to set up a taskforce to look at state secondary education provision for Coburg, West Preston and surrounds, we strongly disagree with her comments in the Moreland Leader Monday 1 February 2010. Her obvious bias makes it imperative that this taskforce has an independent chairperson to present fair and reasonable results without outside influence. 
Minister Pike says a Coburg High "may not be used” – she has obviously chosen to ignore the HSC parental attitudes and intentions survey results which show 96% of respondents would send their children to a Coburg High. She also says Coburg had a high school which parents chose not to send their children to.That is a complex story of school closures and amalgamations and it is arguable that some schools did not get the extra support required from the very beginning. 
It is time to look to the future and provide valid options, not dredge up the past.The community is no longer willing to accept Coburg’s place in the education department’s too hard basket. They do not want to move suburbs or send their children far away to attend high school and many cannot afford this option .Equitable access to education is what’s required. 
Minister Pike is fond of saying “it takes a village to raise a child" - one of the basic requirements of the village is a secondary school, and for this wonderfully diverse community it would be a hub, enhancing connectivity and sustainable development. Minister Pike refers to "early analysis" showing greater growth in student numbers in the Brunswick area than the Coburg area. That is either disingenuous or she is getting bad advice.
Her comments are at odds with the recent DPCD and Moreland Council projections showing much greater numbers of young people in the Coburg area right now and much greater expected growth in Coburg into the future. For example in the 10-14 yr age group there are roughly twice as many in the Coburg Statistical Local Area (SLA) ( 2,671 children ) than the  Brunswick SLA. For 15 -19 yr olds Brunswick SLA decreases long term by 277  while Coburg's numbers grow by 681.* 
And why is Minister Pike talking about Coburg and Brunswick numbers around  the launch of Glenroy and Fawkner re-branded schools?  Is it to justify the fact that the spending on secondary education in Moreland is occurring in the north and in Brunswick in spite of the greatest number of young people being in the Coburg area where there isn't even one open entry state high school? 
HSC ask Minister Pike to make this “early analysis" available to the public, along with other data that we have repeatedly asked the department for, so that the community can see the whole picture.We have 22 primary schools, the greatest number by far of young children in Moreland now and into the future and no open entry state high school, what's the story?

*A visual representation of the DPCD statistics can be seen here. The raw data was sourced from the DPCD site, scroll down to the end of the page and click on detailed data files.

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