30 Nov 2012

Whitehorse Primary School – Building the Education Revolution

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Mr SYMON (Deakin) (11:28 Thursday 1 November 2012):

On 12 October, I attended the official opening of Whitehorse Primary School—a new school in my electorate of Deakin, formed by the merger of the former Springview and Nunawading Primary Schools. With funding from both the Federal Government, through the BER Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, and from the Victorian Government, through the Schools Regeneration and VST programs, this was a much bigger project than the previous 34 BER openings that I have attended in the electorate of Deakin.

It was great to see the results and to be able to recognise some of the people who helped ensure that the project got off the ground. The Victorian Minister for Education, Martin Dixon, and both the former State Member for Mitcham, Tony Robinson, and the current Member for Mitcham, Dee Ryall, were there for the opening. I especially thank Tony Robinson for his hard work in 2009 and 2010 as the State Member for Mitcham.

I would also like to thank the school captains, Jessica Arandall and Duncan McLeod, who assisted with the formalities on the day. As good as Whitehorse Primary looks today, I think everyone who has been involved in a project such as this soon finds out that it does not just happen overnight and it can take a lot of time to get things right.

The merging of two schools into one is difficult for the parents, teachers and students, and also the wider community. However, if it is done properly, the transformation can be a real plus for the whole community—both inside the school gate and outside. By combining P21 funding of $3.2 million from the Federal Government and $4.78 million from the Victorian Government — a total of $7.986 million — the results are there for all to see. The $4.78 million of state funding was committed to the project by the previous State Labor Government and the project was completed by the current state Liberal Government.

It was back on 3 February 2009 that the Federal Labor Government announced the schools building program known as the Building the Education Revolution program. The Primary Schools for the 21st Century component of this program applied to all primary schools and the National School Pride funding applied to every single school Australia-wide. One month later, on 3 March 2009, I visited Anne Kettle, Principal of Springview Primary School, to talk about the opportunities for the school under the Federal Government’s Building the Education Revolution and National School Pride programs.

I had a similar conversation with Kerry Wood, the principal of Nunawading Primary School, a couple of weeks later, on 23 March 2009. Both schools really did need the money. In Springview’s case, the buildings and grounds were slowly falling apart, and in Nunawading’s case the buildings were also in poor condition to the extent that they had cracks in the walls so big I could put my hand in them. The original Tunstall Primary School building, which was the former name of the suburb of Nunawading, renamed in 1945, is a historic building but it was also well in need of a makeover. Putting the Primary Schools for the 21st Century funding to the best use was a challenge that eventually became a part of the solution to the joining of the schools.

The merging of both schools could not have happened without the assistance of the principals, Kerry Wood from Nunawading — and now, of course, Whitehorse — and Anne Kettle from Springview, and the teaching staff, the school councils, the parents associations and the school communities. The difficulties in deciding the best way forward were resolved over many long months of negotiations between the school councils, the principals and the department, resulting in the decision to merge both schools and rebuild a brand new school at the Springview Primary site on Junction Road.

People such as Tony Clark, the Whitehorse School Council President and formerly from Nunawading, spent countless long hours building support amongst the school communities to gain support for the merger. Geoff Allan and Rod Williamson from the Victorian DEECD, whose expertise helped facilitate the department’s involvement through extended consultations, negotiations and planning, also need to be congratulated. I should also like to thank the builders, Daniel and Matthew Boje from WP Contracting, who used a modified Maroondah template design for the school’s new hall to get the best value for money in the building of this great new educational facility.

For two years, Whitehorse Primary School was based at the Nunawading Primary School site on Springvale Road, whilst the old Springview Primary buildings were demolished and the new Whitehorse Primary School was built. Whitehorse Primary School is now the newest primary school in the Federal Electorate of Deakin, which contains 50 different school communities. The facilities that have been provided are the envy of many other local schools and show the benefits of combining State and Federal Government funding for the benefit of our community.

In additional to the National School Pride funding of $200,000, $3.2 million from the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program was invested in the construction of the school’s new indoor gym that is also used by the local community after hours for basketball. It is also used by referral services and there are many paraprofessionals who come and visit the school for various programs — a great improvement for what was a very rundown and under-used facility.

I commend the opening of Whitehorse Primary School as an excellent example of how the Federal Labor Government’s BER program has provided great new education infrastructure for our local community.

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