After years of campaigning, in July 2020 we finally received a commitment from the State government for a new school in the inner west.
Why we need a new school
Since before I was elected, I've been hearing from locals that we desperately need a new school to properly address overcrowding. The west side is growing rapidly, and we need long-term planning and infrastructure to keep up with development and densification.
Our schools have been so severely overcrowded that classrooms are full, pool and library time is limited, before and after school care services have long wait lists and demountable classrooms are being erected on school ovals, encroaching on students’ play area.
So as the local MP, I’ve been meeting with local P&Cs, collecting petition signatures, raising this in Parliament, and working with the Education Minister to secure a new school. I'm so excited that they've listened to the community and will invest in this crucial infrastructure for the west side.
What we know so far
- The new primary school will open on day 1, 2023 as previously announced, supported by $65 million in funding for building work which was delivered in the 2020 Budget.
- The government is delivering a P-6 primary school, but I will still be pushing for more secondary capacity to cater for long term growth.
- The site hasn't been decided yet, but we know that the Department is specifically seeking to take the pressure off Indooroopilly State School and Ironside State School, so the new school will probably be in those catchment areas.
- Consultation about the location is currently underway and will go on until March 2021. More information on that is below.
- We also know that there is extra funding to purchase land, drawn from the State-wide pool of $146 million this financial year, with more available next financial year.
My guiding principles for the location
After talking to hundreds of local residents about this issue I’ve developed a set of guiding principles about the location of the new school. They are:
- Consultation: The location must be based on detailed community consultation with local residents by the Department of Education.
- P-12: The new school should be P-12 if this is possible based on space. The State government has committed to a primary school, but we know that Indooroopilly State High and Kelvin Grove are both very full and that many west side high school students face a lengthy commute.
- Taringa: The best general location would be around Taringa to fill the large gap in existing catchments formerly occupied by Taringa State School which was sold in 1997, and which would take the pressure off Toowong, Ironside and Indooroopilly State Schools.
- Traffic and transport: A new school will cut traffic overall by allowing more families to walk, cycle and catch public transport, but the site must be located conveniently for public and active transport connections to minimise impact on local residents and maximise walking, cycling and public transport usage among students.
- Public green space: There must be no net loss of public green space including parks and bushland. Any loss of green space must be compensated with new parkland or urban bushland in the electorate.
- Property acquisitions: As a priority, the State government should acquire commercial properties or vacant properties, and should avoid compulsory resumption of existing homes where possible.
- Flooding: As far as possible, the school should not be built in a flood zone.
- Vertical school and green space: A “vertical school” is a viable option as long as students still have safe and convenient access to outdoor green space.
- Catchments and grandfathering: Catchment boundaries for existing schools must be “grandfathered” to allow children to remain at their current school, and to allow children with older siblings at an existing school to attend that school if they wish.
Over the past couple of years my office and I have been looking into possible locations for a new school, and have a few sites in mind. Subject to community feedback, I think the most logical choice is for the school to be built in Taringa, because it's a growing suburb, relatively accessible via public transport, and still doesn't have a school (after the old Taringa State School was closed in 1996).
A new P-12 school in Taringa would help take pressure off Toowong, Ironside and Indooroopilly schools which have all struggled with overcrowding.
The Education Department's consultation process
The Education Department has launched an online survey here: https://survey.qed.qld.gov.au/form/NewInnerWestSchool.aspx
The Department will also run four in-person "drop-in" sessions throughout February 2021, with times and dates to be posted on this page soon.
Unfortunately the survey is uses a clunky delayed verification system, so you'll need to register in advance and wait a day or so before getting access. I've asked for this to be fixed, but the Department's IT system is not flexible enough. At my request the Department has addressed some other issues like allowing more than 250 characters in the "other feedback" question.
As well as the location, consultation will also cover master planning (i.e. the medium to long term design), the catchment, the name of the school and the culture and vision for the school.
The Department has already announced that the school will include general learning areas, specialist spaces, multimedia spaces, special education facilities and outdoor learning areas.
Down the track, once the principal is appointed, there will be an opportunity for locals to meet them and work together on a vision for the new school.
Proposed location at the Indooroopilly State High School site
In the survey, the Department has proposed building a new primary school on the site of Indooroopilly State High School, likely on the western side at Ward St and Canarvon St. It seems obvious the government wants to build on this site because it will be cheaper and easier for them to meet their own January 2023 deadline.
There are some significant issues with the ISHS site, so I have asked the Department to continue the search. The issues with the ISHS site include:
- Local concerns about keeping access to the ISHS oval outside school hours and access to green space. Right now, the Department's plans don't include building on the ovals, but this is still a major worry for residents.
- Extra traffic at peak times in an area which already has significant congestion. The existing congestion seems to be largely attributable to the three existing non-government schools, but ISHS students and staff also have an impact.
My position is that doing this right is more important than doing it quickly. Securing the best location will help our community for decades, so I'll be urging the government to make sure we don't rush the process for the sake of sticking to the Minister's deadline.
The site of ISHS is the only location the Department has proposed, but they have looked at a few other locations. At my request the Department have agreed to publish a list of the other sites they are considering. They are seeking input from local residents on alternative sites.
One of my priorities now is ensuring residents get a real say, so I'll be working hard to hear and amplify the voice of the community to the Department.
I encourage all local residents to fill in the Department's survey, and to nominate any alternative sites so they can be assessed.
There's still work to do, but I want to thank residents for working so hard to secure this win. Whether you came to a community forum, contacted my office, shared your story, signed the petition or helped keep the pressure up on social media, you’ve helped demonstrate just how urgently we need a new school here on the west side, and it’s paid off.
Sign up here to receive updates on the community consultation and planning for the new school. If you have specific thoughts about a location, or other ideas or concerns, please contact my office directly via firstname.lastname@example.org or 3737 4100.