Today’s Daily Telegraph has an opinion piece about the sale of Enmore School.
Maralyn Parker – 24 June 2009
The planned auction of Enmore Public School grounds next month has mobilised a range of inner city locals from parents of pre-schoolers to TAFE teachers and students. It is another great example of how to stir up a local community.
And the debacle highlights one great edifying achievement in education by the NSW Labor government. It has managed to convert many parents of school age children into political activists over the past ten years.
Fighting to stop the sale of school grounds by pollies looking for easy cash can do that to you.
I have seen hundreds of normally mild mannered mums and dads discover their secret inner ratbag this way. Enmore parents now know all about it.
Those budding activists should keep in mind some parents do win. Thriving schools at Erskineville and Hunters Hill can attest to this – as can the still intact, though in remission during an inquiry, Hurlstone Agricultural High School farm.
The Enmore school is on prime real estate in trendy Metropolitan Road. It has not been used as a school for years. Its last incarnation was an adult learning centre and since 2003 it has been left to decay as the local community continued the fight to save it from being sold off.
And that is probably the most despicable part of the decision to go ahead with the sale in 2009. Since 2003 many things have changed in Enmore. The most obvious is the local baby boom.
According to convener of the community action group Save Our School, Alan Crocker, the number of “birthing age adults’’, that is 25 to 39 year olds, in the area is now 10 per cent higher than the Sydney average.
Childcare centres and pre-schools are full. One mother I spoke to yesterday has had to put her four children into three different pre-schools over the past few years and she is grateful even for that.
It is such a problem the federal government has identified the inner city of Sydney as one of 11 high priority areas of NSW in need of an Early Learning Care Centre and there has been a quest to find a school to house the centre.
But follow this – a NSW education department spokesman told me on Tuesday no suitable site had been found so at the beginning of June it ran an advertisement seeking proposals to establish a centre.
It is outrageous that the Enmore site has been ignored. It has 14 classrooms and other areas that, refurbished and upgraded, could be a brilliantly located child care centre and more.
Nearby Stanmore Public School is full – enrolling only strictly local children. But it has classrooms currently being used to house the Distance Education Unit. This unit could easily be moved to Enmore to free up space.
Other inner city primary schools such as Forest Lodge and Ultimo are also full.
And if we need yet another reason to keep this public property for public use, the TAFE college just 250 metres down the road needs room to expand. The Design Centre Enmore is part of this TAFE and demand is high and increasing for its arts based courses. The spillover could be accommodated on the old school site.
According to Alan Croker, who is an architect, the Enmore site could cater for all three of these suggested educational facilities and would be great to reopen as a primary school or small inner city high school in the future.
So selling it off is worse than short sighted it is verging on bloody mindedness. And that makes me wonder what else is going on here.
The school is in deputy premier Carmel Tebbutt’s electorate of Marrickville, Nearby Balmain, another inner city electorate, is held by Education Minister Verity Firth. Both electorates are under threat from the Greens.
The Greens have been the most politically supportive in trying to save the site. Action by Marrickville Council, lead by Greens councillor Cathy Peters, blocked the sale until former planning minister Frank Sartor orchestrated the go-ahead to sell the site. And Greens Education spokesman MLC John Kaye as well MLC Sylvia Hale have pursued the government in parliament over disposal of the site.
If the school is saved the Greens would rightly take some credit.
Surely the government and Carmel Tebutt in particular would not put a win over the Greens above doing what is best for education and the children of NSW.
Politics can be nasty but that would be just too contemptible.
Read it and write a comment on the Daily Telegraph’s website.