Member for Mulgrave Curtis Pitt has thrown his support behind the Bartle Frere State School community’s drive to prevent the school being ‘mothballed’, following a meeting with P&C representative Melissa Humphris yesterday.
Mr Pitt said it would be premature to speculate on the outcome until the community consultation process has been completed.
“It is important to understand that no decision has been made at this stage – this is a consultation process,” Mr Pitt said.
“I’ve had assurances that all the information and community views will be considered before making any decisions about the school’s future.
“But it is up to Education Queensland to demonstrate why the school may have to close. The onus should not be on the school community to justify why it should remain open.”
Mr Pitt pointed out that while it is easy to make a decision based on numbers and resources alone, the role the school within the community must be taken into consideration.
“The school is not only a learning institution but the hub of activity in the community – a meeting place for volunteer and community groups,” Mr Pitt said.
“I’ve asked that Ms Humphris and the school community continue to express their views during the consultation process. So long as discussions are undertaken in good faith by all parties, there is hope that the school will continue to operate into the future.
Mr Pitt said that he can certainly appreciate the advantages of a small school education as his wife attended nearby Bellenden Kerr State School when she was younger.
“I understand that it is not possible for there to be small schools everywhere in Queensland. It would not be workable from a resource or operational point of view for the government.
“However there is a place for smaller schools as long as the schools are able to demonstrate that they have, or would be able to develop, something that makes them unique that benefits not only the students but also the education department in the region.
“The lower student numbers means that Bartle Frere lends itself to the school playing a role as a practical training ground for new teachers or those undertaking university studies in Education.
“Alternatively, that the school sits at the base of Queensland’s highest mountain says right away that there are opportunities that could focus on its geographic position and ‘outside the square’ learning activities.
“This is not the first time that Bartle Frere has been reviewed and the school has remained open. Call me sentimental, but I’d like to see the school be able to celebrate its centenary year in 2022.”
Mr Pitt said that Bartle Frere State School embodies the things that we are seeking to achieve with the government’s ‘Towards Q2 vision’ for Queensland and the school should be rightly proud of the literacy and numeracy outcomes by students.
“I am of course concerned whether the students have access to the broadest range of education opportunities and that they are provided with a learning environment that allows them to thrive.
“The performance by students at Bartle Frere would indicate that this is most certainly the case.
“At the end of the day, this exercise must be about providing the best educational outcomes for the students at this school.”
Mr Pitt said that a number of factors will be taken into consideration including the capacity of the area and population demographics. Indicators used to establish school viability may include:
- occupancy rate
- resident student numbers
- enrolment projections
- school population size
- community service obligations
- geographic location
- travelling distance to other schools.
The review of Bartle Frere State School is part of an annual process whereby Education Queensland looks at all schools where enrolment numbers are in decline or forward estimates show it is unlikely there will be growth in numbers in the longer term. There are 12 schools across Queensland that are presently under review.