PERTH MLA John Carey has defended the State Government’s change of plans for Perth Modern School, saying it listened to the community and acted accordingly.
A new western suburbs high school will be built alongside Perth Modern School at Kitchener Park in Subiaco to replace the controversial Education Central high-rise proposal in the Perth CBD.
The reversal of the Government’s policy follows a concerted campaign by Perth Modern parents and supporters who opposed the Education Central site’s lack of playing space and Government consultation with the school’s community.
“Education Central was an ambitious project, however given our timeframe constraints to deal with student enrolments and some concerns raised by the community, we have acted decisively in the best interests of all West Australians,” Premier Mark McGowan said this morning.
The Government proposes to spend $68 million for the first stage of the Kitchener Park school, which will have Year 7 students in 2020.
Year 12 students are proposed to start in 2025, taking the student population to about 2000, and Perth Modern School is to remain on its existing site as the only academic selective school in WA.
The Government rejected refurbishing the previously proposed City Beach High School site for 600 students because Kitchener Park could better serve inner-city population growth.
“This school addresses the need for a secondary school in the booming inner city suburbs, rather than in the coastal area where population growth is much less,” Education Minister Sue Ellery said.
Ms Ellery said intake areas would be adjusted for the new high school in Subiaco, but parents in existing areas would have the option of send their children to the new school.
“I’m happy a strong compromise has been made,” Mr Carey said.
“I don’t think it’s ever a weakness for government to listen to a community and change its mind.
“Perth Modern community was strong and clear on wanting to retain its connection to the school, we’ve done that.”
Perth Modern parents welcomed the Government’s change of direction.
“I think it’s a great outcome to respect the tradition of a famous WA school,” Perth Modernian Society president Peter Farr said.
Mr Farr said it was too early to consider any potential rivalry between students at the new school and neighbouring Perth Modern because school cultures took years to develop, and Perth Modern “always” had good relationships with other schools.
He said the “complex” issue of the new school’s catchment may be flexible in future years because it would concern populations of Year 7 students.
Areas beyond the western suburbs could be served by the new school, such as southern suburbs in the City of Stirling.
“They are bound to be as the intention was to relieve some of the pressure now on Churchlands High School,” Mr Farr said.
There are no indications of what the Government now plans for the dumped Education Central site in the Perth CBD, but Mr Farr said another selective school in the southern suburbs would be welcome.
“Perth Modern has the capacity to add more classes, but we’d love to see a second selective school in the southern suburbs, perhaps in Como, where it could work well with nearby Curtin University,” Mr Farr said.
Mt Lawley MLA Simon Millman said the $4 million promised to upgrade Mt Lawley High School would not suffer in light of the Subiaco school.
“We will still spend the $4 million at Mt Lawley High School,” he said.
“There won’t be cuts made to service this (project).
“This proposal is economically sensible in a dark, fiscal climate.”
City of Subiaco Mayor Heather Henderson welcomed the announcement of a new Subiaco school, but lamented the lack of green spaces in the City.
“Council’s preferred position would be that the green space on Kitchener Park is retained for community use and junior sport; there is a shortage of sporting fields in the area and this space could meet this need for active recreation space,” she said.