After years of campaigning, in July 2020 we finally received a commitment from the State government for a new primary school in the inner west, to open on day 1, 2023. The school will include general learning areas, specialist spaces, multimedia spaces, special education facilities and outdoor learning areas. This is supported by $65 million in funding for building work in the 2020 Budget. 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.
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. 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. The west side is growing rapidly, and we need long-term planning and infrastructure to keep up with development and densification.
There's still work to do, but 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 helped demonstrate just how urgently we need a new school here on the west side, and it paid off.
Consultation and next steps
The Education Department's online survey is here. You can submit feedback to them there, or via email: [email protected]
Unfortunately it 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.
The Department also ran four in-person "drop-in" sessions throughout February 2021 which are now concluded.
As well as the location, the Department's 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. 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.
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 don't think their consultation has been adequate so far, and it hasn't given residents an opportunity to gather and genuinely consider alternative sites for the school.
My guiding principles
Consultation about the location will continue until at least March 2021. 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.
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 Department's proposed location at Indooroopilly State High School
In its 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:
- Extra traffic at peak times in an area which already has significant congestion from St Peters, Brigidine, Holy Family and Indooroopilly State High.
- Keeping access for local residents to the ISHS oval outside school hours, as well as concerns about reducing play space for students.
- Loss of space for future expansion at ISHS if and when it is eventually required.
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. I have made this very clear to the Minister for Education via in-person meetings with her, and in writing.
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.
More information and alternative sites
The Department of Education has sadly failed to publish any detailed demographic information, data about enrolment projections or other supporting material to help local residents give feedback on their proposed site at ISHS.
Traffic issues around Lambert Rd
Regardless of where the new school is built, I am committed to working with Council to improve pedestrian safety and improve public and active transport in the Lambert Rd precinct. Click here to read more information about my proposed improvements.
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 [email protected] or 3737 4100.