By VANESSA LIM
Randwick Boys High School (RBHS) will stay boys only despite overwhelming support from the community to make it a co-educational school.
CLOSEast, a community group that has been been advocating for another Eastern Suburbs public high school since 2016 was disappointed. Licia Heath, an Eastern Suburbs local and member of CLOSEast who has waited over 12 months for the decision to be made, said it would not only affect herself but other community members.
“It’s just a joke. It shows how tokenistic this issue was to the election. This has such an effect on families’ lives. For the first time ever, girls attended the RBHS open night at the beginning of this year, thinking that there was a chance that it would go co-ed, but it was all just a red herring.”
The NSW Department of Education’s (DoE) public survey, which was open from December 2018 to February 2019, showed that 66.4% of the 2,226 participants supported changing RBHS to a co-ed school. The other 28.12% of participants were against it, while the rest stayed neutral.
Dr Marjorie O’Neill, Labor MP for Coogee, said the report was meant to be released in the first half of the year. “Regardless of what the outcome was, we were really pushing for a decision to be first made, so that we could know what the future of the school would be.”
Decision not based on popularity
It appears the survey results were just a small factor of what was taken into consideration. A spokesperson from the DoE said, “The decision was not based solely on the online survey results; other community consultation and considerations were involved, as covered in information on the department’s website.”
In the public survey report, 40 Eastern Suburbs’ public schools, parents, school kids, representative stakeholder groups and the general public views were all taken into consideration.
Dr O’Neill said that while she agreed that turning RBHS into a co-educational school would remove choice for single-sex schools, there was now no co-educational choice in the Coogee electorate.
“Now that this decision has been made, the minister and the Department of Education need to now be very clear about how they propose for parents to have access to co-educational public schools.”
A spokesperson from the DoE said, “The department continually monitors population and development trends to plan for future enrolment demand, and develops projections of student numbers that are based on the official NSW population projections, from the Department of Planning and Environment.”
Dr O’Neill said, “One of the things that have been proposed is that kids can go to JJ Cahill Memorial High School or Matraville Sports High School. But how are kids going to get there? What is the public transport plan to get there? If you have a look on google maps and just do a public transport plan, it takes over an hour.”
Ms Heath also argued that there was no longer a choice for her two children that would eventually go to high school. “I have two kids and I’m very passionate about them to go to a co-ed school. At this stage in my area, there’s fifteen private schools and one public school. Of those sixteen in total, two are co-ed.”
Nearly 2 years ago, CLOSEast conducted a survey with over 2000 participants and found that many parents didn’t want to send their children to single-sex schools. “Single-sex schools might have been very in vogue in the 1950s and 60s, but increasingly they’re not.”
Boys school under capacity
The reason why RBHS was chosen instead of Randwick Girls High School to become coeducational was because it was under capacity. “People weren’t wanting to send their boys to a single-sex school. I think the enrolments were something like 650 of 1000 students whereas Randwick Girls next door was basically at capacity.”
“CLOSEast’s view is not about making Randwick Boys H.S co-ed. If the community wants that, terrific. Our campaign has been about the capacity constraints across the whole region requiring a whole new [public] school.”
Dr O’Neill said that she now wanted to know what Liberal Federal Member for Wentworth, Dave Sharma, would do to help. “The current Liberal government has never committed to a co-educational school, but I’m very interested though to hear what the federal member of Wentworth has to say about this.
“He committed to building a co-educational public high school in the Eastern Suburbs but he seems to have gone silent.
“I would like to see his advocacy in this position as he ran off this as well as a number of other issues as part of his electoral campaign.”