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Port Melbourne Primary running out of room

16 Jan 2012

Port Melbourne Primary running out of room Image

The ever-shrinking oval at Port Melbourne Primary School is a harsh reminder of the major education problem facing Southbank and the inner-south of Melbourne.

With more students attending the school every year, permanent and portable classrooms have reduced the once spacious play area. Even the basketball court was built over, with the new court encroaching further into the middle of the grassed oval.

Port Melbourne principal Peter Martin says something has to give, as his school is starting to lose its battle with over-population.

He met with local MP Martin Foley and Leader of the Opposition Daniel Andrews late last year to discuss possible solutions to the growing public education issues in the area.

Port Melbourne is currently the closest and easiest school for Southbank residents and a number of students attend the school who live within our postcode.

The school has grown from 120 students when Mr Martin took over as principal in 2002 to 540 at the start of this year. Predictions show if nothing is done for the area, the number could jump to 994 by 2019.

Current zoning has Port Melbourne primary as the government school for Southbank and large sections of South Melbourne but, with both areas growing quickly, Mr Martin believes the zones will need to be tightened.

He said one of his immediate solutions was: “Continue to implement a local enrolment strategy (a zone) and gradually reduce the size of this zone, with a view to eventually enabling all local families to have automatic access to their closest primary school.”

“It is my belief that all children should be able to walk to their primary school.”

He said the over-population issue wasn’t exclusive to Port Melbourne either, telling Southbank Local News Albert Park primary school had been forced to split lunch in two, because there wasn’t enough room in the playground for all the kids.

“I never want that to happen here. I do not want to split our lunch hour into two shifts as it is divisive for both staff and students,” Mr Martin added.

Mr Martin went on to say he believed a new school was needed in the area within the next four years.

It was better news for secondary-aged kids in Southbank when Education Minister Martin Dixon officially opened the new Albert Park College last November.

After closing its doors due to a lack of pupils and a run down facilities, the college re-opened to students last year to an extremely positive response.

The new school was forced to turn away 150 of its 300 applicants for this year, showing just how desperate parents around the inner south are for education centres.

Minister Dixon knew parents were excited about the new schools facilities, saying: “Parents recognise that this school is state-of-the-art: it is environmentally friendly, it is equipped with an array of technology, it is comfortable to learn in and, most importantly, the staff are outstanding.”

While visiting Port Melbourne primary, Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews reaffirmed the need for more new schools in the area, saying: “Nothing is more important than giving all kids a good start in life.”

“It’s up to the government of the day to support education infrastructure that parents and kids need. It shouldn’t matter who you vote for or who’s in government,” Mr Andrews said.

When questioned by Mr Martin on what his party could do Mr Andrews answered:

“We’ll keep working hard to ensure the government doesn’t ignore this issue. Ignore it at their peril.”

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