Population, planning and school provision: It’s high time for Coburg

Currently in Melbourne many middle ring suburbs have community campaigns calling for reinstatement of government school provision. The suburbs include – Richmond, Kingsville-Yarraville-Seddon, Oakleigh, Coburg, Prahran and a campaign for two schools for Port Phillip. 

A graph made using the Property Council’s new tool, Our Nation, shows just how many new class rooms will be needed in Melbourne to cope with projected increased numbers by 2021 – enough to make any State Government treasurer blanch. The suburbs needing schools now are generally those which have experienced school closures followed by increased numbers of school aged children as a result of increased births, suburb life cycle and an influx of first home buyers and young families moving a bit further out from the inner city.
Along with the above population factors some middle ring suburbs are experiencing urban renewal with plans and capacity for more. A recent Property Council Report Making the Numbers Stack Up: a study into major residential urban renewal in Melbourne has highlighted Coburg as being the only suburb in the top 20 for numbers of all three new housing types. 

Coburg Hill – the redevelopment of the old Kodak site is coming along nicely and was launched by State Government big guns like the Premier and Planning Minister.In a recent Moreland Leader article, the Moreland Council CEO Peter Brown said of the Coburg Initiative urban renewal project -“All the fundamentals are there. Even when we talk to the State Government they say of all the urban redevelopments around Melbourne this is probably as good as you’re going to get”.

HSC argue, with full council support, that the one fundamental missing is a high school which is essential for the economic viability of urban renewal in this designated activity area. If the State government back urban renewal in our area they should also back the provision of essential social infrastructure. Local school provision not only benefits economic development it is positive for community development, social development, well being, health and the environment. Of all morning peak hour car trips, 17% are parents taking children to school according to a recent report from the Vic Parliamentary Enquiry into Environmental Design and Public Health and the cost of congestion is set to double by 2010. HSC say planning for local school provision which enables active transport is the solution.

Recently the Minister for Education Hon Martin Dixon said on ABC radio that of all the areas in Melbourne needing a school Coburg is the most progressed. Since September 2008 Community advocacy group High School for Coburg (HSC) has been calling for the reinstatement of junior secondary provision in Coburg. HSC’s own report More Local Primary School – Fewer Secondary Options  shows very big increases in primary school enrolments in the area, for example a 50% increase Prep enrolments in the four years to 2012.

HSC await the census data with interest as one anomaly they cite is the low growth in numbers for primary school aged children in id forecast projections for Coburg North for instance compared with the actual primary enrolment increases at the local schools. Cate from HSC wonders if this is because it is hard to capture families who migrate into suburbs with children as they aren’t picked up in birth data for the area.
The group has put together this data map using the id website which shows the most secondary school aged persons in Darebin and Moreland are in Preston and Coburg –suburbs which do not have any Years 7-9 co-ed school provision. Two state governments have commissioned two demographic reports by consultants Spatial Vision on a study area roughly equating with the Moreland plus Darebin municipalities.
The 2012 report, with the added benefit of Darebin Council now being on board with id forecast showed even bigger projections than the 2010 report and found an immediate shortfall in spaces for years 7 to 9.

The Education Minister has this report and DEECD recommendations before him now and is expected to make a decision in the near future.

HSC say it would be a good idea for the Planning Minister to have a chat with him.

Cross posted on the .idblog here.

High School for Coburg Campaign Update June 2012

While the Minister for Education, Martin Dixon has been considering the Review of Secondary Provision in the Coburg Area, HSC has had extensive media coverage including:
Here is a snap shot of comments from the Minister’s spokesperson:
  • Expanding Coburg Senior High School to include year 7 to 9 students was one of two options under consideration to meet a shortfall of 301 year 7 to 9 places set to more than double in less than a decade
  • The second option being considered was increasing infrastructure at existing schools.
  • Minister Dixon would consult with the HSC group and other stakeholders and was likely to reach a decision in the next two months.
  • “If there needs to be short-term solutions, such as relocatable classrooms, those things are considered and money is available,” 
  • “But it may be that there are other schools in the area that also have capacity to take students.
  • We’re certainly looking at a long-term solution for the Coburg area.
  • Minister was willing to meet community groups. 
  • "The minister is looking at a number of options to cater for short and long-term growth in the area and is expected to make an announcement in the next few weeks about preferred options," the spokesman said.
  • He said the data had to be properly analysed before a preferred option could be explored.
Comments from Minister Dixon on ABC radio:
  • Of the areas needing a school Coburg is the most advanced. A number of options with me right now. I am considering these.
  • Looking at recommendations with options -we consider options then make decisions about timing. Depending on recommendations -may not be needed until next year or the year after.
  • If recommendations say the need is immediate then it could be in the budget next year.

The reports, including the Spatial Vision Report 2012 and the  HSC Response to the 2012 Spatial Vision Report, are on Minister Dixon’s table now and HSC are keen to meet with him. So we were pleased to read that the Minister is happy to meet with community groups and will be consulting with HSC as we have been unable to secure a meeting with the Minister or his advisor since January 2011.

It is excellent that the most sensible option (7-9 provision at Coburg Senior High) is being considered. We ask the Minister to choose this option now – it does not cost anything to make the right decision – and give our community some certainty.

Relocatables at schools outside Coburg are not a solution for this community as they would be mainly at Thornbury and Northcote – too far away – and in relatively small numbers, according to the Spatial Vision report, so would be quickly swallowed up by those communities.

A short term stop gap is not the answer and is not an efficient use of funds.
The money that is available now for relocatables should be spent on immediate implementation planning for provision in Coburg.

A “long term solution for Coburg” is not good enough – the Spatial Vision report found a significant and immediate shortfall. The need is therefore immediate and it is good to know that if the DEECD recommendations reflect this – the money can be in next year’s budget.

  • HSC have secured a very high level DEECD meeting – date TBA.
  • HSC have reiterated our requests to meet with Minister Dixon and his advisor or chief of staff.
  • HSC have an Information and Discussion Session booked for Moreland Council Directors, CEO and Councillors on Monday 25 June.
  • HSC have pencilled in Tuesday 24 July for a community meeting at Coburg Concert Hall– details TBA.
  • Now is the time to write to the Minister. Contact details here
  • ‘Like’ us on facebook – we have 674 followers currently
  • Has your school or childcare written a letter of support? Have they backed the CSHS option?
  • We have 12 schools and two child care centres among our 45 letters of community support