The proposed location of the school on Wattle Street

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By Holly Jones

 

The high cost of space in Sydney’s city have slowed building plans for the highly sought after inner city school.

The desire of the Government to cater for the inner city parent’s push for an all-inclusive school is being stalled by the inability of the City of Sydney and The NSW Department of Education to come to a price agreement for the proposed space on Wattle Street.

Whilst the council has approved the selling of the site, they are still awaiting on the NSW government to approve the offer and their terms.

Lord Mayor, Clover Moore set a motion to the council in last Monday’s (November 3) council meeting to confirm the sale and terms that the council would negotiate on.

“Last week Council supported my motion to approve the sale of the former Fig and Wattle Street Depot in Ultimo to the NSW Department of Education and Communities to be used as the site for a new school. As well as a new school, the site will be home to an 80-place child care center”.

The inner city schools will not be built by 2017 as promised, unless the City of Sydney offers the state government a discount on the space which they have indicated they are willing to do provided the child care facility is promised.

The Education Department is reportedly prepared to spend $74 million for the old council depot space, but the City of Sydney is awaiting the approval of their terms.

A spokeswoman from the City of Sydney commented on the impeding need for a school in the area. “There are increasing numbers of young families in inner Sydney and the City of Sydney is committed to supporting the need for improved education facilities and services to meet growing demand,” she said.

“With more and more families choosing to move back into the City, we are helping to make sure their children have the facilities they need.”

NSW Education Minister, Adrian Piccoli, has appealed directly to Lord Mayor Clover Moore asking her to step in to help negotiations that have been halted for months.

In a letter to the Lord Mayor, Piccoli indicated that if price cuts are not met, another space would need to be sourced.

“I am advised that this process would make the 2017 opening date impossible to meet,” wrote Piccoli.

“The department will need to go back to the community to attempt to find an alternative site.”

But this will be an issue in itself as locations for inner city high schools are running out, Government predictions indicate there will be none left by 2018.

Skye Molenuex, Co-director a group called Community for Local Options for Secondary Education (CLOSE) believes this was a predictabke occurrence that has been happening for some time.

“Over the last 15 years there has been a “baby boom” in areas people didn’t traditionally raise families. These areas are the inner city suburbs and suburbs just on the edge of the city. This coupled with the fact that many of the schools in those areas had been sold off or decommissioned or repurposed,” she said.

The increase in enrollments in local inner city primary schools, such as Bourke Street, Crown Street, and Darlinghurst further indicated the need for high schools.

In 2010, Burke Street had 74 new students, the Department of Education predicted that it would have 112 this year, but 230 students enrolled.

The Education Department also projects there will be an extra 2500 high school students living in inner Sydney by 2026.

Other popular ideas for a school location include the redevelopment of existing sites such as Cleveland Street Intensive English school.

The issue for Molyneux, mother of 2, is that even if a primary school can be found, the only high schools available in the inner city are too exclusive for most children, including her own.

“Sadly, Sydney Boys and Sydney Girls high schools are now so academically elite that they are not an option for most students,” she said.

“There are no all-inclusive high schools in the CBD, and the closest ones in Glebe, Balmain and Alexandria Park, are either almost or already full.”

This isn’t the only issue the education department is facing, with the recent issues with fees in the catholic school department.

With the policy of flat tuition fees to be abandoned next year, parents whose children attend Catholic Schools in more affluent areas will have to pay higher fees than those in poorer areas.

This affects the inner city families further as they are likely to be included in the ‘rich list’.