Inner West Independent

Back to school on so-called baby boom

Council figures show the school-age population will be falling by the time a new school is built

Leichhardt Council will lobby NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli for a new primary school in the area, arguing the state government has grossly underestimated the size of the baby boom in Sydney’s inner west.

In a media release, Mayor Darcy Byrne cited “exponential” growth in student numbers uncovered by independent research.

But a close look at the figures shows the growth in school-age children is far from exponential, and will actually peak later this decade.

A spokesperson for Leichhardt Council confirmed that the period of high growth is limited.

“Data shows declines in the future but not a sharp fall from already increased numbers…the numbers of primary school aged children are forecast to peak around 2016 and fall slightly by 2021,” the spokesperson said.

“After the 2016 census results are released we will know if the baby boom is in decline and can refine projections for the period after 2016.”

In a media release, the council pointed to research commissioned from “social planning firm” Public Practice as evidence for the viability of a new school.

The release was reported uncritically by the Inner West Courier newspaper, which said “there will be a 33 per cent increase in children aged 0-4 and a 57 per cent increase in children aged 5-11 by 2021”.

But it neglected to mention that this increase is for the period 2001 to 2021, not from the current day.

The commissioned research predicts an increase in the 5-11 age bracket from to 4400 in 2016, before falling to 4100 in 2021. It also shows a fall in the 0-4 age bracket from to 3800 in 2016 and 3500 in 2021.

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education and Training said that the department has not yet “been informed by Leichhardt Council of a specific case for a new primary school”.

“[We] established a Leichhardt Local Government area (LGA) Primary Schools Asset Planning Group in 2013 to examine projected needs and plan for government primary schools across the Leichhardt LGA into the future,” the spokesperson said.

“The findings and recommendations of the Planning Group including any need for new primary school teaching space are expected to be reported back to the department in mid-late 2014.”

Cr Byrne staged a public forum on Tuesday to pressure the state government on out-of-hours care at public schools. Women are curtailing their careers because of a lack of available childcare, he told the audience of parents and teachers, and education minister Adrian Piccoli “has his head in the sand”.

“Today’s childcare crisis will be tomorrow’s school shortage,” Cr Byrne said.

Michael Koziol contributed reporting.

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