Campaign for new Beaumaris secondary school

Beaumaris students and parents fight to go it alone.
Beaumaris students and parents fight to go it alone.

STEVE Pearce believes the dilapidated Sandringham College sign that greets visitors at Beaumaris symbolises the fate of the school's third campus, which many parents believe has been allowed to wither on the vine.

''If you drove past there it wouldn't inspire you to go,'' Mr Pearce says bluntly.

''People didn't even know it existed, they thought it was shut. When they did find out they thought it looked run-down and awful.''

Mr Pearce, an ABC journalist who has three children at nearby Beaumaris North Primary, has helped spearhead a campaign for the troubled Beaumaris campus to secede from Sandringham College and become a stand-alone year 7-12 school. Like many parents in Beaumaris, Mr Pearce would love to keep his children in the public system.

''Instead of driving to a private school and paying all that money, they could just jump on their push-bikes,'' he said.

However, the year 7-10 campus at Beaumaris, which has dwindled to fewer than 120 students in recent years and no girls at all in years 7 and 8, is simply not an option for many parents.

Sandringham College became a three-campus school in the late 1980s; the result of a merger between Beaumaris and Highett high schools and Sandringham Technical School.

In a report on the school website, consultant Howard Kelly said while multi-campus colleges were favoured by the government in the early '90s, this had become less the case. ''The additional funding, flexibility, access to grants … has been less and less … This reality plus the difficulties of distance between the Beaumaris site and the other two sites [in Sandringham] has had an impact on the life of the overall college,'' Mr Kelly wrote.

School councillor Clarke Martin says the community wants a stand-alone year 7-12 school with its own principal, rather than a satellite junior campus governed from afar. He says the new school could forge close links with local sporting groups and launch a Beaumaris sports academy, specialising in soccer, netball, football and basketball.

It could also capitalise on the proximity of Ricketts Point marine sanctuary, by offering an elite marine science program. ''If it was owned by the community with its own school council … a lot will get done,'' Mr Martin said.

To broaden the curriculum on offer, students could also do subjects at Sandringham College and Mentone Girls' Secondary College.

Mr Pearce said local families would throw their weight behind the new school.

''Ever since I moved into the area, the most common conversation is: 'What are you going to do for high school?''' he said.

He said while girls had the option of a state school with Mentone Girls' Secondary College, there was little choice for boys other than private schools.

''It creates a two-tier system even within families,'' he said.

''People are stretching themselves enormously financially, taking two jobs and not taking holidays because they don't have any other choice.''

Last year Sandringham College's school council voted unanimously to support the secession plan.

A spokesman for Education Minister Martin Dixon said the final work of a feasibility study was being completed.

This story Campaign for new Beaumaris secondary school first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.