docklands news

After years of studies and reports, the State Government last month announced that a primary school would be built in Docklands.

The October 11 announcement by Education Minister James Merlino was part of a wider commitment to also start planning new schools at Fishermans Bend and North Melbourne. The State Government has a school site at Digital Harbour but an education department official told the Docklands Community Forum in August that it was considered too small. The government says it is assessing five Docklands locations and a decision will be make within six months.

Docklands News understands that the site previously set aside for a place of worship, on the corner of Little Docklands Drive and Footscray Rd would also be considered too small. Docklands News believes that all other land parcels within Docklands contractually belong to developers and, if the government wanted a site for a school, it would have to effectively buy the land back.

It would make sense to site a school at the end of Docklands Drive adjacent to Ron Barassi Snr Park. However, MAB Corporation would expect to extract the broad uplifted value of what it expects to make from the towers it has master-planning approval to build there. Mr Merlino has been reported as saying the Docklands primary school would be open for classes within two years. Inner-city enrolment boundaries would also be changed so Docklands families can send their children to Ferrars Street Primary School and University High School.

And while the announcement has been widely welcomed locally, pressure group City Schools 4 City Kids believes the announcement does not go far enough. Spokesperson Jo Fallshaw said the Docklands school needed to cater for secondary students as well as primary students. “While it is great news that the Docklands will finally have a primary school that can cater for the large population of the Docklands, CBD and West Melbourne, the decision to build a primary school rather than a prep-12 school is just deferring the problem and a wasted opportunity,” Ms Fallshaw said. “There are currently 1211 children between the age of five and 14 in these areas according to City of Melbourne data. What happens when they reach secondary school age?” Ms Fallshaw said.

Group member Denise Fung-Henderson said: “Removing the discriminatory discontinuous secondary school zone that leap-frogged over University High to the immediate north to force these kids all the way to Flemington is welcome news. But Uni High is already at capacity – how are they going to cope with such a huge intake of kids over the next few years?” “It seems like building a primary school in the Docklands rather than a Prep-12 school is incredibly short-sighted. The Uni High catchment zone has just doubled over night. The pain will shift as Uni High bursts at the seams due to short-sighted planning.”

City Schools 4 City Kids also says that adequate open space is critical if a new school is going to be able to offer enough out of hours childcare spaces. They say six square metres per child is required. Without adequate numbers of before and after-school care places, they say schools become inaccessible. Docklands family have for many years been forced to move out of the area when their children reached school age. There are currently more than 300 children accessing 21 weekly playgroups at the Docklands Community Hub. In 2010, 13 playgroups were conduction in Docklands.

When announcing the Docklands school, Mr Merlino said 5000 school places would be created for inner-city families. He said planning would also start on a new primary and secondary school at Fishermans Bend and a new primary school at North Melbourne. Under the inner city schools announcement, the government said it would also: Secure a site to expand Albert Park College and provide five extra classrooms; Deliver the remaining funding for South Melbourne Park Primary School and Prahran High School; and open the new Richmond High School and Ferrars Street Primary School in 2018. He said the principal of Ferrars Street Primary School would also be appointed 12 months before the school opens so local families could get enrolment support well in advance.

Article by Shane Scanlan & Elliana Saltalamacchia
Docklands News – 25 Oct 2016