Buck-passing over school plan

RUMOURS are rife throughout Northern Rivers high schools that the Department of Education is planning a radical restructure of five Lismore high schools into a multi-campus “superschool”.

While a department spokesperson has categorically denied such a plan is on the table, senior sources at several schools say they have been told it is a “done deal” and is earmarked for introduction from 2012.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Adrian Piccoli said no such plans had come from the Minister’s office, though it could have been initiated at a local level, while Lismore MP Thomas George said late yesterday that he had been assured “nothing would be done without a proper consultation process”.

The Northern Star has been told the shake-up involves offering only Years 7 to 10 at Richmond River, Kadina, Nimbin and Wilson Park High Schools while channelling all Years 11 and 12 students through Lismore High School as the senior campus.

There are currently 16 such models operating in different forms throughout NSW with varying degrees of success, though a similar system in Dubbo has recently been reversed after 10 years following scathing criticism from teachers and parents.

NSW Teachers Federation North Coast organiser Nicole Major said yesterday she had been fielding calls from concerned and frustrated teachers across the Northern Rivers all day.

“At this point we will not support any changes to the existing structure,” she said.

“There has been no consultation by the department with teachers, students or the community which is significant and, given the disastrous outcomes at Dubbo, and also a number of other schools around the state that are very unhappy with their structures, we don’t see this in anyway shape or form as a positive direction.

“We can understand they are trying to get a more attractive school system but we think there are far better options than splitting the seniors and juniors.”

Lismore High School principal Peter Campbell said local high schools had been discussing senior and multi-campus models in the Lismore area since 1999, and since 2007 under the banner of the Lismore Community of Secondary Schools incorporating Wilson Park Special School, Kadina, Richmond River, Nimbin, and Lismore high schools.

He said the group would continue to explore “all options of curriculum choice” including sharing syllabus and staff, but said no decision had been made regarding a “superschool”.

“We have not decided that that would be a way to go but if it was the (case) we would certainly put it out there for consultation,” he said.

“We have no formal direction from the department or the region that that’s going to happen, or is going to happen in the next year or the next few years.”

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