Learning from the Past: it's about time
In 1872 the Victorian Government passed the Education Act, which introduced compulsory, free and secular education to the colony. But those enlightened lawmakers knew that more was required. Bricks and mortar… infrastructure… schools: lots of them, and in a hurry.
Enter Henry Bastow, appointed Chief Architect and Surveyor by the newly created Education Department. Suitably resourced for the task that lay ahead, Bastow’s team built about 600 schools in Victoria during the 1870s. Most of these neo-gothic structures are still with us: beacons of the importance of accessible education for a thriving community.
Now travel forward to the present day, when no government schools were opened in 2016. This despite a significant uptick in the number of school age children in recent years. Has the Education Department been caught napping, or is there something intrinsically wrong with their planning methodology? It's the latter, as demonstrated by the emergence of the Our Children Our Schools alliance. Too many schools were sold off, and when the inevitable urban renewal followed, departmental projections were shown to be seriously flawed.
Why should inner city parents tolerate poor schools planning? Why should concerned parents sacrifice years of their lives to do the Education Department’s work for them? Why do we need unsung heroes to educate the Education Department? It’s not good enough.
This website looks at the issues from a number of angles. We explore several detailed Case Studies and honour the memory of the Lost Schools of the 1990s and the Lost Schools of the 21st Century. Urban Renewal, Population Projections and Open Space delve into the competing challenges facing new school planning. And lastly, Spotlight: Merri Creek Corridor calls for a new approach.
We need to learn from the past. There are many lessons throughout this website:
- There should be a moratorium on school sales until the Victorian Auditor-General has conducted an investigation into school closures and sales from the 1990s to the present day.
- Selling former school sites (e.g. Moreland High School) should only be considered once all factors have been taken into account.
- The Education Department should not wait for parent action groups to form to address school shortages in the inner suburbs. Coordinated, proactive planning is required.
- The memory of former schools should be acknowledged through the use of plaques and online services.
- The heritage status of older, red-brick schools to be reviewed for state-wide consistency and expanded accordingly.
- The Education Department to use small area population projections when determining future school needs (e.g. start planning for a new High School in the Merri Creek Corridor now).
- Public open space requirements to be established with the involvement of councils, State Government, developers and the community.
- The State Government should take a leaf out of the New Schools policy developed by The Greens.