Prospects for the State’s newest Government secondary schools look excellent with demand for places in the five colleges exceeding expectations.
Education Minister Colin Barnett said today he was heartened to learn many families had chosen to start their children at, or transfer them to, the three Perth metropolitan high schools and two Mandurah high schools opening next year.
He said it was proof public education was not a “poor second” to private schooling and it could, and would continue to, compare favourably with the non-government sector.
It was also validation that the Local Area Education Planning (LAEP) process - established in 1997 to look at ways to improve education facilities in local groupings - had been a success.
“I’m extremely pleased with these enrolment figures,” Mr Barnett said.
“There was a certain element of chance in changing the structure of local schooling and building new facilities, but these student numbers show the decisions to change have paid off.
“Many of the additional enrolments are those we couldn’t be sure of because they were dependent on how many parents would move their children across from the private sector.
“It shows the faith parents have in the restructured public facilities.”
The five new high schools set to open in February are Shenton College in Shenton Park, Sevenoaks Senior College in Cannington, Cannington Community College, Mandurah Senior College and Halls Head Community College.
Mr Barnett announced the construction of the schools in 1998.
He said today Shenton, Cannington and Sevenoaks would replace existing schools which were being closed or restructured because of declining enrolments and ageing facilities.
The Mandurah schools would accommodate the expanding population in the region, creating a total of three middle schools (Year 8-10) and one college for Year 11s and 12s.
The decisions were made after intensive planning and public consultation processes co-ordinated by the Education Department’s LAEP unit.
The process, still taking place in other parts of the State, involved looking at improving educational provision in specified local areas.
The $23.6 million Shenton College will cater for Year 8-12 students, $8.4 million Sevenoaks Senior College and $17.1 million Mandurah Senior College for Year 11-12 students, $8.7 million Cannington Community College for kindergarten to Year 10 students, $14.6 million Halls Head Community College for Year 8-10 students.
Mr Barnett said Shenton College had expected about 1000 students and had enrolled 1200.
He said the thousands and thousands of people that visited Shenton College last weekend reflected the degree of interest in the school.
He said Sevenoaks had set targets for 280 and so far had 380. Cannington had expected 325 in its secondary section and already had 355.
Mandurah had estimated it would have 747 students and had almost 900 enrolled and Halls Head expected 300 and had now revised that to more than 350.
“The enrolment estimates have been exceeded at all of the new schools, and quite significantly in some of the schools and some of the year groups,” Mr Barnett said.
“We thought the schools would attract a lot of students who wouldn’t ordinarily attend Government schools, but these numbers have given a real boost to me, the Education Department and to the staff at the schools.”
Mr Barnett said each of the schools had been designed to cater for expansion and would accommodate the higher numbers comfortably.
He said the additional enrolments had meant, however, that some schools were turning away students from outside their local intake areas.
“At Shenton College, their capacity was 240 Year 8s and, even taking in that high number, they have so far had to turn away more than 50 students from outside their boundary,” Mr Barnett said.
“And 85 per cent of the Year 11 students from Cannington Senior High School are coming across to Year 12 at Sevenoaks.
“Ordinarily Cannington only retains 55 per cent of its Year 11s into Year 12. I think that’s a very exciting result for post-compulsory education.
” Evidence is also coming through that these healthy enrolments can be sustained in the longer-term.
“Yule Brook College, the Year 8-10 school which was created out of the old Maddington Senior High with a $1 million refurbishment, received an extra 30 enrolments within the first couple of months of its opening this year.
“Numbers have been steadily increasing since then and the school is expecting yet another overall enrolment increase of 20 to 30 students - many of them Year 8s - for the start of next year.
“Another positive is that people’s fears that students might not make the transition from Year 10 at Yule Brook to Year 11 at Sevenoaks have not been realised.
“The retention rate is up to about 80 per cent from 60-70 per cent when the middle and senior schools were on the same campus.”
Mr Barnett said many of the students in Years 9 and above enrolling in the new schools had come across from the schools they were replacing but a number were also moving to the schools from the private sector.
“Shenton College has estimated 40 of its students are moving across from private schools, many of them prominent western suburbs schools,” he said.
“The other schools have reported the same sort of trend.”
Mr Barnett said the figures showed that public schools could compete with private schools.
“There are a lot of parents these days choosing to put a significant portion of their wages into a private school education for their children,” he said.
“The demand for places at these new Government schools is showing the public system has the ability to be extremely competitive.
“That’s very reassuring and I think the public system can and should take pride in that.”
Construction of each of the new schools is on schedule to be ready for the start of the 2001 school year.
Media contact: Diana Callander, 9222 9699