'Our school is growing': Families protest review of Adelaide's lowest attended high school

A review into the future of Adelaide’s lowest attended high school will go ahead, the South Australian Government says, despite a minor climb in attendance rates for the third year running.

Springbank Secondary College, located in the city’s south and formerly known as Pasadena High School, has just 164 students, according to the Government’s Capital Programs and Asset Services, up from 149 in 2019 and 138 in 2018.

The inclusive school’s disability unit has also maintained a steady rate of students with 38 students in 2020, 35 in 2019, and 38 in 2018.

But with just 62 students from within the school’s zone choosing to attend in 2020, and a further 784 choosing schools outside the zone, the State Government is considering its closure.

“Based on the numbers that have prompted this review, Unley High School [UHS] is clearly the preferred school of choice for families living in the Springbank zone,” said Acting Education Minister Rob Lucas.

According to modelling being considered by the Government’s review committee, all of what it calls Springbank College’s “mainstream” students will be able to transition to UHS if the school closes, where 399 students from the Springbank zone already attend.

Students from Springbank’s disability unit and special-needs classes, however, will be case managed individually to find a suitable school.

Merger voted down

A potential merger of Springbank with UHS was in 2016 voted down by parents and, at the start of 2019, the school rebranded itself.

It launched a five-year renewal plan to fill its 450-student capacity with a focus on partnerships with the Australian Science and Mathematics School, Flinders University and Basketball SA.

People holding placards stand in front of a stone building inviting passing motorists to honk their horns.People holding placards stand in front of a stone building inviting passing motorists to honk their horns.
A protest by families and students received plenty of horn honking on Goodwood Road this week.(ABC Radio Adelaide: Malcolm Sutton)

Friends of Springbank Secondary College spokesperson, Danielle Duffield, said the announcement in March to review the school therefore came as a shock that left everyone “scratching their heads”.

“Only 12 months ago he [SA Education Minister John Gardner] was here with [SA Member for Elder] Carolyn Power and [Federal Member for Boothby] Nicolle Flint,” she said.

“What on Earth changed for them to make that decision?”

The Government said in 2020 just 23 mainstream Year 8 students started at Springbank College, compared to 31 in 2019.

It was still an increase from 2018, however, when just 16 mainstream Year 8s enrolled, compared to 13 in 2017 and just 9 in 2016.

Students from outside zones

Ms Duffield pointed to an ABC Freedom of Information investigation into 2018 zoning figures that found 62.7 per cent of Springbank’s students (84) came from outside the zone.

At Unley High School, by comparison, 77.8 per cent (927 students) were attending the school from outside its zone.

“Our school is growing,” Ms Duffield said.

“We’re right in this fantastic phase of growth and unfortunately the Minister has decided to just close us.”

Council against closure

Mitcham City Council wrote to the Government to request that the review be abandoned but the request was rejected.

Councillor Yvonne Todd said it is now drafting a submission to the Springbank Educational Review, which closes to feedback on Friday.

“The school has been slowly growing its numbers every year, and there was an expectation that its numbers would grow for next year,” she said.

Enrolments at Springbank plummeted to 117 in 2017 after the merger with UHS was knocked back, but have climbed again since — although not to levels like at the start of last decade when the school had 290 students in 2011.

“But our concern is not just with the school closure, but also the loss of that land,” Ms Todd said.

“And there’s great concern about what will happen to all those assets there, such as a basketball stadium, the Tower Arts building, a trade training centre — those are all under review as well.”

Mr Lucas said the review would consider the educational, social and economic needs of both the community and the state as a whole.

“The Government has been clear on the importance of the basketball stadium, and heritage-listed performing arts centre, remaining in community hands in the event that Springbank Secondary College closes,” he said.

ABC News Disability Direct



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