Report on Naremburn School Public Meeting, 2 July 2009

Update

Posted 21 July 2009

Willoughby City Council, supported by the NPA, hosted representatives from the Department of Education and Training (DET) at a meeting to update the community on DET current policies for schools in the area. The meeting was chaired by Mayor Pat Reilly in the presence of State Member, Gladys Berejiklian, Councillors Barry Thompson and Kate Lamb, WCC GM, Nick Tobin, Father Frank Dineen msc, parish priest of the Catholic Parish of Lower North Shore, members of the NPA and parents. There was a disappointing attendance by parents given advance notice in the June issue of Naremburn Matters, emails, and 300 flyers and posters distributed throughout the community.

Presentations were made by the DET and the Catholic Schools Office (CSO) of the Catholic Diocese of Broken Bay. Jane Simmons, Director of the Northern Region, DET, stated it is not an option to open a school in Naremburn. The former Catholic School site is not suitable for a school. DET has engaged an Assets Management consultant to look at all school facilities and plan according to prevailing demographics. On a positive note the Director said she was keen to work with CSO Broken Bay and WCC in school planning.

DET presented the following demographic snapshot and how government grants would be used. It was stated there are seven schools within four kilometres of Naremburn, of significance to Naremburn, are:-

  • Cammeray: Present enrolment 705. Expected five year increase 103. A new two storey six classroom building is to be built.
  • Artarmon: Present enrolment 692. Expected five year increase 79. Library conversion, new library to be built.
  • Northbridge: Present enrolment 482. Expected five year increase 78.
  • North Sydney Dem: Present enrolment 639. Expected five year increase 109.
  • Willoughby : Present enrolment 804. Expected five year increase 148.

A total of $59,262,000 has been allocated for upgrade of school facilities in the Northern Region.

A representative of the CSO showed projected increases based on the ABS figures, bottom line being Naremburn’s growth does not merit opening a school here. The Mayor stated with feeling that the demographics of the period when the Naremburn schools were closed in the ‘90s did not successfully predict present population trends.

The CSO claims the decision not to open a Catholic School in Naremburn is based not just on demographics but on the unsuitability of the Naremburn site within the Catholic Church grounds. While DET’s Jane Simmons could not give any DET policy as to the ideal size of a public school, she was quick to point out that schools of less than 200 are not economically viable.

St Philip Neri Catholic Primary, Northbridge, which takes a number of Naremburn children, has less than 200 pupils. Northbridge also has the smallest State School – 482. NPA research has shown that twelve Naremburn families choose to send their children to St Mary’s Catholic Primary, North Sydney.

We continue to rely on ABS figures of 2006. Any of us living in Naremburn know from walking our streets and observing our neighbourhood that there is a marked presence of children under three years. To our knowledge the Naremburn Catholic parish has not conducted a census of its adherents for at least fourteen years.

We might also ask:

  1. Is the current church land being used to the best advantage of the community?
  2. Could the former school building be upgraded to meet present standards, or, a second storey added to its eastern wing?

Update

8 May 2009

The next meeting of the Naremburn School Working Party (NSWP)will be held on Thursday 28 May at the Naremburn Community Centre, 7-9 Central Street, Naremburn between 7.00 and 8.00pm.

Mr Dean White (relieving Dr Kathryn Brennan as the School Education Director) and Mr Steve Martens – Manager, Northern Sydney Region Assets Management Unit from DET will attend the meeting.

To view the latest Working Party minutes click here

Update

26 February 2009

For the latest updates on the school for Naremburm click here
To view the latest Working Party minutes click here

Update

26 February 2009

A School Working Party meeting was held on Friday 13 February 2009 chaired by the Hon Gladys Berejiklian MP Member for Willoughby, whose hope had been to set up a meeting of the School Working Party with the NSW Minister for Education and Training, the Hon Verity Firth.
The working party meeting was attended by Nick Tobin WCC General Manager and two other Council Officers; Jane Simmons, Northern Regional Director, DET and a policy assistant, as well as four members of the Progress Association. Marcia Waller, WCC’s Community Services Director, was on leave.
The meeting commenced with Gladys tabling a letter to her from the Minister, dated 6 February, that had been received that morning. Gladys said that it had taken 5 months for a response to her meeting request of 9 September 2008.
In the letter the Minister stated that Census data since 2001 indicates;

  • No increase in number of dwellings in Naremburn suburb
  • Total population increased by less than 50 people
  • Infant age group (0-4) has increased
  • This has not flowed through to the key primary age group (5-9)
  • There is limited scope in the area for further residential development
  • Future growth in enrolments would be accommodated through enhancements to existing public schools with the upgraded Cammeray Public School being the main school for the area

The Meeting’s discussions revealed that DET:

  • Has worked on demographics
  • Consulted with school boards and school communities (P&C)
  • Gave the numbers at the schools as Cammeray 705, Artarmon 686, Willoughby 804, with indicative averages being 30 for years 3-6, 20 for Kinda, 22 for year 1, 24 for year 2
  • Seemed unaware that two year 4 classes at Cammeray had 34 and 36 pupils
  • Admitted that there were pupils transferring from other systems as the credit crunch was felt
  • Expect that ex-pats returning to Australia after June to further swell enrolments
  • Is working with Catholic Education Office and have found the St Leonard’s Catholic Church site in Naremburn unsuitable due to the upgrade cost, safety and parking issues
  • Would not condone a K-2 school as it would lead to composite classes
  • Did not have Asset Management officers who look at the physical building side of schools at this meeting
  • Claimed that the growth in the number of demountables at local schools is driven by a desire to keep class sizes to a regulated number
  • Tabled a chart showing that the numbers of pupils in schools will peak in 2012

It would seem that there is a need for WCC and DET to work more collaboratively on education resources in Willoughby City.
When a request was made for a follow-up meeting in April with Asset Management attending, DET said that they could not gather the required information by that time. It was agreed to meet in mid May with a public meeting in Naremburn in mid June.
In the meantime, the NPA is approaching Council for statistics on the increase in rateable properties in Naremburn to ascertain if the figures quoted by the Minister are in fact a true picture of the current number of dwellings.
At the conclusion of the meeting Gladys requested, and the DET representatives agreed, that a strategic plan to address the overcrowding and other issues related to primary school students in the Naremburn area would be tabled at the next meeting. Minutes of this meeting are not yet available; when they are they will be placed on this website.

Update

6 February 2009

The next meeting of the Working Party will be held on Friday 13 February 2009 at 2:00 pm. As discussed at the previous Working Party meeting, Gladys Berejikilian MP Willoughby has organised for Jane Simmons, Director DET and Kathryn Brennan, the School Education Director for this area, to attend. The meeting will be held in the Banksia Room on Level 6 of the Council Offices at 31 Victor Street Chatswood. Naremburn’s State Primary School, as well as the St Leonard’s Catholic Primary School, closed in the 1990s because school age population of the suburb had decreased to a point where keeping these schools open was not financially viable. Naremburn’s demographics have changed. There is now an urgent need for a K-2 school in our suburb.
To view the latest Working Party minutes click here

Update

3rd December 2008

Following the May Public Meeting that looked at the possibility of reopening a Primary School in Naremburn, there have been two Working Party meetings. The Working Party is composed of representatives from Willoughby City Council, North Sydney Council, Naremburn Progress Association, as well as local parents. At the Working Party meeting held on 23 October, a number of reports were tabled. WCC presented its report, ‘Schools in the Willoughby LGA’ [local government area]. The report from the State Education’s Regional Director, who was not present or represented at the meeting, stated:
“….Following an assessment of the Catholic Primary site in Naremburn, the Department has determined that the site is unsuitable as a site for a school due to the site size, restricted floor space and unsuitable accommodation. This is also the view of the Catholic Schools Office….”
The Catholic Schools Office, Diocese of Broken Bay representative, read a report by that office indicating inherent problems of the site in meeting their standards Clearly there are significant problems with upgrading the former Catholic school site to current standards. However, this has to be balanced against the need for further primary school capacity in the immediate area.
The local government schools, Cammeray, Artarmon and Willoughby, are all at, or near capacity, Cammeray Public, having 10 demountables, Artarmon Primary 13 demountables and Willoughby 6.
The WCC report also stated that the local Catholic primary schools, St Phillip Neri (Northbridge) and St Thomas (Willoughby), cannot accommodate any more students. A recent North Shore Times article reported: “North Shore public schools are bursting at the seams with 2009 enrolments already at capacity”.
As well as the increasing primary school age population, Cammeray Public has stated that it has been inundated with requests from parents wanting to leave the private school system and seeking places at Cammeray. So the need for additional school places is clear; how this can be achieved without re-opening a school in Naremburn is difficult to understand. Continued community support, opinions and involvement in the issue are needed.
Updated information and Working Party minutes, as available, will be on this website. The next Working Party meeting will be in February 2009 and will be followed by a further public meeting.
To view the latest Working Party minutes click here