Question: Whyalla High School's Amalgamation


Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (14:57): My question is to the Minister for Education. What community consultation was undertaken before the government's announcement to amalgamate the Whyalla high schools into a new school and how many stakeholders were supportive of the idea and how many were opposed to the idea?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (14:57): As members may recall, the idea of having a feasibility study into the amalgamation of the three high schools was in the budget last year and so activity has been undertaken in Whyalla, including extensive discussions with all three schools. The feasibility study recommended that there be a new site that all three schools would then come onto.

I am very pleased that as part of the recent announcement we have been able to provision for that to be paid for and that we will be able to have this single high school. The reason that I am pleased about that is that, first of all, having three high schools in a town that isn't as large as it was when we first established the educational offerings makes sense. It also means that all of those students will have access to a brand-new school with brand-new facilities right on the cutting edge of the kind of equipment and technology and learning spaces that students need and deserve in the modern economy, and nowhere more so than in Whyalla.

I am also pleased because it is my view that having a school that goes only to year 10 and then requires students who want to go on to consider moving schools is not the best design for a high school system that expects all of our students to finish high school. The message that it is okay to stop at year 10—which was certainly the case when I was at school a very long time ago—is not okay now. We only have this legacy remnant of a system that said, 'We will have a whole lot of kids finish in year 10 and then we will just have a high school for the last two years for those who essentially want to go on to university.' That is the old days. That is gone in our education system.

To be able to make the physical manifestation of that I think is absolutely essential because it sends a very clear message to students, parents and employers that high school is for the full five years, that you will finish year 12, that you will get your certificate and you will be learning in an environment that will train you in all the skills that are required for the modern economy, which include, of course, not only the STEM skills but also higher order thinking skills (HOTS), the capacity to analyse, to think critically, to think creatively, to problem solve and to work in group dynamics. Our older school facilities are not as well designed for that.

I think it's wonderful for Whyalla that we are able to make this investment. I am sure that there are probably some people who have some sentimental attachment to the old form of schooling who grieve that. What I can say is that we will make sure that we do this in a way that is very respectful of all three school communities. We will be very mindful of the need to dispose of the land, the sites, when it comes to that, in a way that's productive and constructive for Whyalla. We will make sure that we are servicing the needs of all the students who are going to high school in Whyalla.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:00): Supplementary: when will the formal consultation with the existing three school communities be undertaken as required by the act if they are indeed to amalgamate or close?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:00): We are currently working out a project plan for that. We will be in a position to make an announcement relatively soon.

Mr GARDNER (Morialta) (15:00): Supplementary: given that the minister referred to the disposal of the land of the existing high school sites, does the $100 million promise include the price of any land sale there, or is the $100 million that has been allocated independent of the sale of that land?

The Hon. S.E. CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Minister for Education and Child Development, Minister for Higher Education and Skills) (15:01): My recollection is that we are talking about a PPP, so that's about the way in which we pay for occupying the site in the future. The disposal of the land is not about getting money back for the education system primarily. What it's about is making sure that Whyalla as a city doesn't have empty wastelands.

What we need to do is work with the community and work with the local government so that we use that land and those buildings in the best way possible. That might be different for each of the three sites, of course. We just want to make sure that Whyalla, in its sensitive time, as it's coming into its new era—it's a very exciting era for Whyalla—that the high school work is constructive and doesn't cause any concern about abandoned sites.