The Murwillumbah community and SOS (Save Our Schools) are calling on the NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell to engage in real consultation with the Murwillumbah community over the amalgamation of their four schools into one mega-school.
‘We are trying to expose the fact that the minister has ignored her Department’s protocols in forcing the amalgamation of four Murwillumbah schools into a single super-school,’ said Trevor Cobbold, national convenor for Save Our Schools.
‘These protocols were introduced by the then NSW Minister for Education, Adrian Piccoli, in consultation with the NSW Primary Principals’ Association and the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council. It followed a NSW Parliamentary committee report in 2015 that castigated the Department’s approach to closing schools as “heavy handed”, ignoring the views of parents and local communities and failing to provide evidence about the relationship between education outcomes and school size.’
Small school size supported
Mr Cobbold highlights the fact that international research supports smaller schools, especially for students from disadvantaged social and economic backgrounds.
‘All the [Murwillumbah] schools have a heavy concentration of students from low income families,’ he said.
‘The proportion of low socio-educational students in the primary schools of 48 and 50 per cent is double the national average while the proportions in the high schools of 40 and 44 per cent are also very high. The proportion of Indigenous enrolments in the primary schools and Murwillumbah HS are also double the national average of 5.8 per cent. Each school also has a significant proportion of students with a Language Background Other Than English (LBOTE).
‘There would have to be a very strong case for amalgamating the school,’ Mr Cobbold told The Echo.
‘We are calling for an open discussion to bring all the available evidence to bear so that they community can form a view and put a view to the government. There should be a strong [recognition] of what the community want for their kids but the minister doesn’t want take any account of it.’
‘The Minister has continually refused to meet with parents, students and the wider community since the plan was first announced in October 2020. President of the Murwillumbah East P&C, Kylie Rose, previously told The Echo that she and her P&C have been calling on the Minister to meet with the community for more than six months,’ said Mr Cobbold.
The Minister did call an invitation only meeting at the end of May but the invitees were not asked to discuss the communities feedback on the amalgamation. Rather they were told they were “being consulted because we might get to pick the colour of the carpet in the new building” according to Wollumbin High School P&C President Soenke Biermann.
‘The repercussions for any professional in the Department, principal or teacher who failed to follow Departmental policies, procedures or protocols would be drastic. They would be subjected to disciplinary action, demoted or sacked. Yet, the Minister has ignored the closure/amalgamation protocols with impunity. She [the Minister] should be subjected to the same disciplinary action as any other professional in education would be for ignoring Department policies and procedures,’ said Mr Cobbold.
♦ The NSW Minister for Education, Sarah Mitchell has been contacted for comment.