Leah Phillips, Pottsville
The community of Pottsville and surrounds continue the fight to establish a secondary education facility in southern Tweed Shire. In its own statement via budget announcements, the Department of Education stated that projections of government school enrolments for 2019–20 were to be over 40,000 higher than that of 2015–16 yet there is still no plan for a government high school in Pottsville – despite land being set aside for that very purpose.
As subdivisions continue across the Tweed Shire, with an estimated 4,500 homes in the Kings Forest housing estate alone, the question is being asked – how will the children who move into this area be educated once they reach secondary school?
Kingscliff High School’s current enrolment of 1,280 students continues to increase as more families move to the Tweed Shire. Most of those who have moved to the Pottsville area in particular were lured here with the promise of a high school to be built in the very near future.
Land earmarked in 2000 for the school is still vacant and those who have moved to the area with children are now placing their children on buses for commutes of up to 45 minutes each way.
The 2016 Census Data shows 485 students from Pottsville, Bogangar, Burringbar, Hastings Point and Cudgen Creek are commuting to high school for up to 45 minutes one way. While the NSW government funds the school bus use of these children, the amount of money spent per student could easily fund a new school in Pottsville and save the government millions of wasted dollars.
When children commute to school, they are removed from their local community. This affects the children’s ability to obtain part-time jobs and play sport in their local community. The flow on effect is then felt with local business as they lose not only the children, but the parents. Appointments are made in Kingscliff instead of Pottsville because the dentist or doctor is closer to the school. Parents shop in Kingscliff as they have had to attend a meeting at the school so it is easier to do it there than have to go out twice.
Without a secondary school, the community is missing out on business and the children are missing out on valuable opportunities to work in their local community. As children face a commute for six years, HSC completion rates drop in these areas, simply put, these children are on a bus when others are already home and studying. These children are preparing for their commute to school almost an hour before those students with a local high school are eating breakfast.
In some instances this is not avoidable. In the instance of a Pottsville high school, this is clearly avoidable due to the land already awaiting development and the children ready and willing to attend the high school.
The 2016 Census Data showed the estimated population growth to 2036 in the Tweed Shire increasing by 33.19 per cent, and the largest age group the Tweed Shire has are 5–9 year olds. Why are the education needs of these children are not being planned for now?