A community member stands at a press conference outside Murwillumbah East Public School on November 20 to protest the new Murwillumbah mega school. Photo: Jessica Lamb
A community member stands at a press conference outside Murwillumbah East Public School on November 20 to protest the new Murwillumbah mega school. Photo: Jessica Lamb

SCHOOL Q&A: Job losses, budget, transition at super school

AS ALLEGATIONS of 'misinformation' float around the region about the new $100 million Murwillumbah Education Campus project, Tweed Daily News has gone straight to the source for answers.

The controversial four-year rollout of the education development is tipped to see two high schools and two public schools close and amalgamate onto the current site of Murwillumbah High School.

The move sparked outrage in the community about the lack of consultation, impact on students and the loss of township history and identity.

We put three of the main talking points to the NSW Department of Education as well as the Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell.

Here are the responses we got from the executive director of infrastructure planning Geoff Waterhouse.

 

Karina Bale, David Platen, MEPS P & C president Soenke Biermann, Lisa Tiffen and Paula and Barry Miller at Murwillumbah East Public School at a press conference against the new Murwillumbah mega school on November 20. Photo: Jessica Lamb
Karina Bale, David Platen, MEPS P & C president Soenke Biermann, Lisa Tiffen and Paula and Barry Miller at Murwillumbah East Public School at a press conference against the new Murwillumbah mega school on November 20. Photo: Jessica Lamb

 

1. JOB LOSSES

What was asked:

  • Will there be job losses?
  • Will the current state staffing allocation model be applied? As we understand, if the current Secondary School Teacher Staffing entitlements (January 2018) are applied to Murwillumbah High School and Wollumbin High School as separate schools the resulting staffing establishment is different than if the enrolments of both were combined into one school.
  • What is the projected staffing establishment and enrolment projections used in the planning of the Murwillumbah Education Campus?
  • Why does the consultation space through the school infrastructure virtual room not have this information?
  • Are the current staffing procedures going to be used for staffing the new Murwillumbah Education Campus?
  • Or is it proposed that the Murwillumbah Education Campus will have a unique staffing entitlement process? If so, can you please explain what this will be and why?

ANSWER:

 

"There will be no permanent job losses as a result of the new campus.

Experience at Ballina Coast High School and Armidale Secondary College has shown significant increase in enrolments. In Ballina's case the original combined staffing entitlement was 67 and now sits at 79 and staff who had not retired or sought transfer have been absorbed into the school.

All staffing appointments, including school counsellors, will be consistent with appropriate HR allocations reflective of the number of students and staff.

Cleaning contractors are monitored to ensure high quality processes are in place and the provision of a general assistant would see an increase in the current time allocated to Murwillumbah.

Increased staff on one site will mean more opportunities for students to study the subjects for which they have an interest and passion.

Students will have access to a broader selection of subjects as well as more vocational education subjects, with a focus on local employment opportunities to help meet the changing employment landscapes.

This amalgamation will provide greater elective and HSC subject choice for students. Having secondary school teachers combine on one site will also enable the delivery of more extension HSC subjects."

 

 

Murwillumbah East Public School students Zoe Johnson, Year 5, and Isaac Rose, Year 6, are unhappy with the state government's plans to merge four schools into one mega-facility. Picture: Liana Boss
Murwillumbah East Public School students Zoe Johnson, Year 5, and Isaac Rose, Year 6, are unhappy with the state government's plans to merge four schools into one mega-facility. Picture: Liana Boss

 

 

2. $100M BUDGET AND DEVELOPMENT

What was asked:

  • How was the $100 million budget for the project determined?
  • Is this subject to change in the future depending on planning and building expenditures?
  • What items are anticipated in this $100 million?
  • Does it factor in the returns for "recycled public assets"?

 

ANSWER:

"The project budget is in excess of $100m and was determined through the development of a business case that responds to service need within the area.

The budget does not require funding from the sale of the existing school sites. The future use of these sites will be determined in consultation with the local community.

Once the masterplan, scope and project tendering have been completed the total cost of the project will be available. Until then, releasing these figures jeopardises the commercially sensitive processes.

The campus will include a primary school and a high school and is planned to include school community health hub facilities co-located within an integrated, purpose designed and built education campus.

A planned school community health hub offers opportunities for the campus to partner with health and community service providers to support improved health and wellbeing for campus students and their families.

It is not intended to replace existing core health services, but to provide additional support. An appropriate service response will be developed in collaboration with these existing providers to work with the existing network.

Campus facilities will reflect contemporary, best-practice education design principles providing students in Murwillumbah with access to innovative, flexible and digitally connected learning spaces. The campus will also include a range of open green spaces, structured sporting spaces and creative spaces; including:

• Outdoor space including landscaped recreation areas, ovals and games courts.

• New library and canteen facilities.

• New specialised learning environments.

• New performing arts learning and performance spaces.

• New school support unit facilities.

• School community health hub facilities.

 

 

Tweed MP Geoff Provest, Murwillumbah High school principal Peter Howes, education Minister Sarah Mitchell, deputy premier John Barilaro and Ben Franklin MLC with Murwillumbah Primary School principal, Murwillumbah East Primary School principal and Wollumbin High School principal at the announcement of a four-year $100 million plan to close four schools and create a mega campus in Murwillumbah tod
Tweed MP Geoff Provest, Murwillumbah High school principal Peter Howes, education Minister Sarah Mitchell, deputy premier John Barilaro and Ben Franklin MLC with Murwillumbah Primary School principal, Murwillumbah East Primary School principal and Wollumbin High School principal at the announcement of a four-year $100 million plan to close four schools and create a mega campus in Murwillumbah tod

 

 

3. TIMELINE AND TRANSITION

What was asked:

  • Is there information about how students will be looked after in transition? How can parents access this information?
  • The current enrolment in the four public schools is 1356 students. If they are all
  • placed on the current Murwillumbah High School site, what measures are in place to stop the difficulties described when Murwillumbah High had an enrolment of that quantum?
  • What will happen to the school sites once they are closed? Will they be kept as a provision for future growth of the school?
  • What options will be available for students who don't fit in with the culture of
  • the mega campus as there is not another public high school in the area?
  • Is there evidence that mega structures work in education? If so, can you please reference the study so we can read it?
  • What is a "community health hub"? How will this fit within the campus? Will it
  • replace public health provision in Murwillumbah?
  • What will be the experience of a student sitting the 2024 HSC? Will they start
  • Stage 6 study at Wollumbin then complete at Murwillumbah?
  • What will be the experience of students at Murwillumbah High School during the construction across the three years, will they have areas of the school blocked off?
  • Will childcare be part of the project?

 

ANSWER:

"The campus is not a 'mega school' unless the term mega is used to describe the quality of the new campus. The high school and primary school will still be small in enrolment sizes while offering students much more.

The transition of students to the new site will be carefully managed by staff under the leadership of the principals. A full plan will be developed and clearly communicated to families.

The current principals are confident that the strong wellbeing support processes in each school will be translated into the new settings to ensure young people learn in an environment that is well managed with high expectations for all students.

Anti-social behaviour is an issue in schools of all sizes and society as a whole. The Department has a number of policies in place to support principals, teachers and school communities in ensuring all students have the opportunity to be part of a well-managed, cohesive school environment.

There are opportunities to explore for early childhood education as part of the detailed planning process.

Construction work will be staged so the school can continue to operate in existing buildings while new infrastructure is built. SINSW will work closely with the school executive and staff to minimise disruption to learning including that of HSC students.

As new facilities become operational, students from Murwillumbah East Public School, Murwillumbah Public School and Wollumbin High School will transition to the campus and join with Murwillumbah High School students.

It is the human element that makes for a supportive school and teachers and school communities will have the opportunity to work together to build a positive culture at the campus that continues to provide a personalised experience for students."

 

Murwillumbah High School year seven students Eva Tiffen, 12, and Jazmin Harris, 13, with Ben Franklin MLC and education Minister Sarah Mitchell. Photo: Jessica Lamb
Murwillumbah High School year seven students Eva Tiffen, 12, and Jazmin Harris, 13, with Ben Franklin MLC and education Minister Sarah Mitchell. Photo: Jessica Lamb

 

 

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