The following is an open letter to Victorian politicians and education department officials from a member of the Shepparton community.
I am concerned about the lack of evidence to back the Victorian Education Department’s claims that the super school is the best option for education in Shepparton. Studies have shown that large schools do not improve academic outcomes and small schools perform better in academic outcomes, discipline, mental health and safety. In the USA and UK large schools have been made into smaller ones. Studies show smaller schools graduate a larger proportion of their students than do large schools. Schools with populations of diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds should be limited to 600 or fewer students. Schools with advantaged students should be capped at about 1000 students.
The risks involved when 2700 students are present on one site outweigh the positives of the school within a school model. There is nothing to prevent the school within a school model being introduced to the present day campuses. Transitioning is also a major concern for the parents of Shepparton. They have genuine fears their children will suffer from being moved from chosen schools that have provided acceptance, a sense of belonging, culture and community, and better than or as good as academic levels as merged schools.
Having choice for schooling is a right every parent takes for granted. Removing three campuses from the Shepparton area takes away that choice. Parents of Shepparton recognise that educational changes need to occur across the state and are not against the building of a new or several new schools. The site that has been chosen for the ‘super school’ is lacking in foresight with regards to population growth, is land-locked and facing a road that will not support the expected traffic. The site chosen should house no more than 900 students as we want the best education possible as shown by all the studies.
Mooroopna as a separate identity and culture have the right to their own secondary college and location is not the reason its numbers are in decline. It is not desirable to bus the students of Mooroopna to Shepparton when they are within walking or riding distance of the present school.
The Shepparton Education Plan is unacceptable and I would be pleased to advise you of alternative acceptable options. The accusations that the opposition to the school is politically driven is insulting. Those opposed to the plan want to be heard and they are being ignored by those responsible for the plan.
The Labor Government continues to treat the Shepparton community with contempt by refusing to provide critical information. It has consistently refused to profide evidence for its claim that the 3,000 student super-school will improve school results. It is now refusing to provide the minutes of meetings of school councils about decisions to support the super-school. It is rumoured that some of the councils of the schools to be merged did not have a quorum when they endorsed the plan. Liberal member of the Victorian Legislative Council, Wendy Lovell, requested the minutes of school council meetings under FOI but the Government has refused to release them. The Government’s lack of transparency on the super-school is disgusting.