Originally written by ADELE CHESTER
PORTLAND South Primary School principal Marg Millard and Portland Primary School principal Heather Atchison came out on Friday to set the record straight regarding any plans to close the two schools.
As reported in Friday’s PortlandObserver, a State Government draft plan for the provision of education services in the Barwon South West Region outlined a proposal to close both schools and to deliver all future primary education from Bundarra and Portland North primary schools.In a joint statement the two principals said the State Government draft plan had been available since January for school communities to discuss.“Proposal in that draft was rejected by the school council of both Portland South Primary School and Portland Primary School who were identified for closure and, as such, the section relating to Portland schools, is no longer relevant,” the statement said.The principals also stated that other proposals, including models involving closure of sites, merging and restructuring, for provision of education in Portland and Heywood, were discussed and taken to school councils and similarly rejected.Although school councils have rejected the plans and “the section relating to Portland schools is no longer relevant”, the statement said any further discussions regarding any restructures have been put on hold.“The Federal Government funding (Building the Education Revolution) has been made available to all schools and so discussions around any restructure have been put on hold,” the statement said.Ms Millard and Mrs Atchison said Member for South West Coast Denis Napthine was aware in March or April they had rejected the proposal and could not understand why he had spoke out last week about the plan.Dr Napthine said on Monday that he knew the schools were opposed to the draft plan, but had received no confirmation the plans had officially been rejected.“What I’m really angry about is the ongoing secrecy, because that is fundamentally wrong,” Dr Napthine said.“These ongoing discussions have to be made public and I believe the State Government has a responsibility to put alternative plans on the table and let the community have discussions about it.“I lay the blame directly at the Minister for Education. The local schools are the meat in the sandwich of this secret process.”Ms Millard and Mrs Atchison said the State Government could not choose to close down schools, and Department of Education Barwon South West Region Hamilton and Portland network leader Graeme Holmes confirmed their comments.“It is a school council decision to close or merge or make any change to school governance,” Mr Holmes said.Education Minister Bronwyn Pike confirmed this in an article in The Agelast week.“The State Government will never force any school to close or merge. Any decision about the future of each school is a matter for school councils to determine,” Ms Pike said.All four schools will be accepting enrolments for Prep 2010 from the start of next term.Portland North Primary School has an enrolment ceiling, which gives priority to pupils of families living within its school zone. Similarly Bundarra, Portland and Portland South primary schools have adopted a neighbourhood policy and encourage families to consider their closest neighbourhood school for enrolment.