A plan to destroy a world class institution, sacrificing students’ best interest?

A reply to the Education Minister from a concerned parent:

Dear Ms Ellery

Thank you for finally sending a reply, which sadly is a duplicate of what I had seen sent to other people, and which offers nothing whatsoever in terms of answering the queries I posed or providing solid, substantiated evidence to support the proposal.

I had been sympathetic to Labor as I had concerns about the financial management of government under Liberal. However, if this proposal is any reflection at all of how Labor will manage its decision-making, financial management, stakeholder engagement, consideration for particular interest groups e.g. children/students, and willingness to sacrifice the vulnerable to gain political advantage (which very obviously is what this proposal is about), then I am afraid Labor comes across as a much worse alternative.Much much worse.

You have been dismissive in responding to concerned parents and citizens, dictatorial in declaring that the proposal will be implemented, even before any sort of consultation with stakeholders (including the Education Department), and lame in not attending (or even sending a representative to) the well-publicised public forum on Tuesday attended by all the other political parties.

In the feeble hope that you may still actually listen, I will respond to your generic ‘cut and paste’ comments.

“One of the constraints of being in Opposition is that there are protocols in place which prevent us from discussing political policy matters with public servants. The school Principal, rightly so, is represented on both the Parents and Citizens Association and the School Board. It was not possible to canvas the policy with those bodies prior to the announcement as to do so would have put the Principal or her representative in a very difficult position. While that is a matter of regret, it was an unavoidable consequence of the protocols about what Oppositions can or cannot do.”

That is untrue and misleading.Yes, the Principal does sit on the P&C and the Board. 

However, nothing prevented Labor from expressing the wish to engage with them separately without the Principal in attendance.

Further, Labor chose to spring this proposal right at the last minute just before the commencement of the campaign/caretaker period, knowing full well the restrictions in place will stifle the expected discussion/debate.

“St Georges Anglican College is in William St (formerly Murdoch College in Murdoch) in the CBD and offers a wide range of extra-curricular activities which mean the students are in and around the CBD before and after school. Trinity and Mercedes are also considered inner city schools. Issues about air quality, safety and “proximity to anti – social activities” are manageable issues for these schools, they will be manageable for a new one too.”

I understand it has been repeatedly pointed out to you that these are blatantly non-comparable examples. 

Trinity and Mercedes have proper campus grounds.

St Georges has ground floor access and is only 6 storeys.

They are all private schools.

Your proposal is to cage 1500 children in the top floors of a high rise building with zero ground floor access.

You make sweeping statements about “air quality, safety and “proximity to anti – social activities” are manageable issues for these schools” – but failed to address any of the concerns raised with you.

  1. none of the schools are right next to the Northbridge entertainment precinct.

None of the schools lock 1500 children on the top floors of a high rise building with no easy escape route in case of fire or other emergencies.

None of the schools force the children to be cooped indoors the whole day (stop saying there will be open spaces on every floor or on the roof-top – because realistically, it will be pathetically inadequate).

“Local intake boundaries for Perth Modern School, that is the geographical boundaries within which local schools can draw students, will be amended to take enrolment pressure off Churchlands Senior High School, Shenton College and Mt Lawley Senior High School and take effect when Perth Modern School opens as a local intake school in 2020.”

How do you actually propose to redraw the boundaries, that will increase the eligible student population of Perth Modern as a local intake from the current 200?

How do you ensure that parents will still send their children to Perth Modern when you have effectively removed the GATE, the alumnus support and the iconic heritage and history, when they can still send them to CHurchlands, Shenton or Mt Lawley, which will still have GATE?

“The decision to enter into an Agreement of Lease with the private owner of the building is consistent with the development of 140 William St under the previous Labor Government and the recent decision by the Liberal Government in relation to Kings Square in Fremantle.”

The examples you raised are commercial buildings for office use.

Do you not think that a school would have different requirements for rooms/halls/ceiling heights/sports facilities etc?

What discussions have you had in terms of developers willing to build something suitable for a school?

Or will you end up with the school being forced to use generic office-standard kind of building?

“Given that no contract has been signed there is, as yet, no indicative figure on the lease costs.”

So how can you insist that this will be implemented in 2020, and cause so much unnecessary stress and worry for current parents and students with this ridiculous proposal, when there is so much more uncertainty?

  1. tender and negotiation time, design and planning time, building time, fit-out time, relocation time, etc – no way this can be done in 2020

Also, with no indicative figures, how do you even know that this is a financially viable proposal?

Earlier Labor documents suggested $13 million annual lease. Multiply that by 20 years. That’s a $260 million commitment.

We have not seen any Labor financial modelling.

“We aim to build on and add to, not diminish the great opportunities for gifted students in the arts and sciences at the new site. We look forward to working with the whole school community to implement this policy in the very best interests of current and future students.”

You are doing the exact opposite.

You are not only diminishing the great opportunities, you are destroying an iconic institution.

You are not working in the best interest of current and future students, you are totally disregarding them for your ulterior motives and sacrificing their interests.

To borrow the words of a parent:

In Mark McGowan’s campaign, one of his key messages is creating “world class schools” in WA.

We know from Hansard that Mark acknowledges Mod as a “public school of absolute excellence” and “the number one… the best school  in the state”.

Perth Modern School is already a world class school with world class teachers, taking in world class students, producing world class results, who go on to become world class contributors to WA, Australia and the wold.

The Labor proposal destroys this world class school, destroys its world class legacy, and you will never be able to go back to restore such a legacy once it is torn apart.

If Labor’s intention genuinely is to enhance Perth Modern School and provide a better campus, they would and should have gone through a proper consultation and planning process, and come up with a good location, a good design, a good plan to build, and a good plan to move. Then move the school to a new site.

The hasty and bizarre proposal to move the students and staff to a new building, but leave the shell and the name, suggests ulterior motives.

Why did Labor not attend Tuesday’s forum?

Was it because:

    • You knew you were unable to defend, justify or cost your proposal
    • You knew you were unable to address the harm, risks and concerns others have raised
    • You were unwilling to face the backlash for the inaccurate assertions and misleading statements you had to resort to to try and camouflage your true intent
    • You were ashamed to front up to the parents and students, when you are guilty of sacrificing the well-being of them and future students, and make them scapegoats for selfish political gains

Think about these:

    1. Is Labor willing to make it clear that you are willing to make key decisions without logical, financial justifications, and without consultation with any one of the stakeholders including the relevant government department?
    2. Is Labor willing to make it clear that you are willing to make decisions which sacrifice the health, safety and security of children?
    3. Is Labor willing to make it clear that the Perth electorate should not be misled, because even though Labor wants to gift them the name of the school, they will not have the teachers producing these world class students, they will not be receiving the support from the alumnus, and they will not be able to identify with the history and heritage of Perth Modern School?

It is time to acknowledge that this is a bad proposal from all counts, and look at how Labor can withdraw it and demonstrate sensibility and maturity to accept responsibility and respond positively in dealing with it.

Do a Tylenol, not a VW dieselgate.

—  West Australian Voter

One thought on “A plan to destroy a world class institution, sacrificing students’ best interest?

  1. Great answer agree with everything that is said. On this matter I am ashamed and disgusted with the Labour Party. Maybe email should be sent to labour HQ in Canberra. A very stupid and i’ll informed decision that is wrong in every regard. Why mess with something that works for political gain- quite shocking! Dave (an experienced educator)

    Sent from my iPhone

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