NEWCASTLE INNER CITY EDUCATION
Ms JODI McKAY
(Newcastle) [5.42 p.m.]: I bring to the attention of the House the plan for the future of education provision in inner city Newcastle, which was prepared by the Newcastle Inner City Education [NICE] Futures Project Group. I formed the NICE Futures group in July last year to develop innovative options for the delivery of vibrant, high-performing public education for the Newcastle inner city area. The NICE Futures group consisted of a cross-section of government and community representatives from local schools, the Teachers Federation, Newcastle council, the University of Newcastle, the Newcastle and Hunter Junior Chamber, Workers' Educational Association [WEA] and TAFE. The group was chaired by Mark Arnold. I made a commitment to seek the views of these stakeholders in developing a plan for education in Newcastle in a climate of growth in our city. We have the Newcastle City Centre Plan and the Lower Hunter Regional Strategy, which position Newcastle as a centre for economic growth and job opportunities in the Hunter region supported by sustainable infrastructure and services.
The NICE Futures Project Group was given the task of assessing the inner city's future education needs. It was challenged with thinking differently and reaching consensus on a way forward to present to the Minister for Education and Training, the Hon. John Della Bosca. The resulting 11 recommendations presented late last year to the Minister embraced interagency, business and community partnerships, and responded to expected future growth in the number of school-aged children in inner Newcastle. The recommendations are broadly categorised under three main headings: future directions for educational provision in the Newcastle inner city, shared enrolment zone and capital works.
The NICE group recommended creating and promoting an educational precinct hub in inner city Newcastle with improved educational approaches and opportunities for people of all ages. It also recommended establishing a group to manage issues affecting education provision, progress priorities identified by the NICE Futures group, and as a mechanism for the engagement of all relevant stakeholders and partners. There was also consensus that the Department of Education and Training's Laman Street site in Cooks Hill should be retained by the department with a view to using it for future educational service delivery. The report sought investigation of establishing a new school on a separate site when required by demographic demand, within easy walking distance for parents and children living in Newcastle's inner city, which may also include alternative models of delivery for public education in an urban environment. Another suggestion was the creation of a small study group to investigate educational models operating successfully in New Zealand and Victoria as a basis for innovation in education delivery in Newcastle.
I can report that the Minister supported the majority of the NICE Futures group suggestions, including the trial of a shared enrolment process for Hamilton South, Newcastle East and The Junction public schools. With respect to capital works, the NICE Futures group agreed that demountables at The Junction Public School should be replaced by permanent classrooms or modular design range buildings. Also recommended was the construction of a permanent building at Newcastle East Public School incorporating classrooms, code-level toilets and staff meeting places, and the installation of security perimeter fencing. The final recommendation included the construction of a safe pedestrian access-way to Newcastle East Public School.
I thank the Minister for embracing the group's enthusiasm and commitment and the forward-thinking ideas it has produced. He has agreed that capital projects of toilets and staff facilities at Newcastle East should be given priority. The Minister has also agreed that the replacement of demountables at The Junction should be given priority. The recommendations I have spoken of today are the first step in improving public education delivery at a micro level, a key contributor towards the achievement of relevant targets within the New South Wales State Plan. I thank all members of the NICE Futures Project Group for their commitment and the Minister for Education and Training for his support of this innovative concept. As the Minister said in his response to the Newcastle Inner City Education Futures group, "Their commitment to engaging in continued dialogue and planning for the future delivery of high-quality educational services in the Newcastle area is to be commended."