With Docklands at capacity, is it time for a CBD primary school?

With Docklands at capacity, is it time for a CBD primary school?
David Schout

After Docklands Primary School hit capacity just two years after opening, should the Department of Education explore opening a vertical primary school in the CBD?

The latest Census data from 2021 revealed that there were more than 500 primary school-aged children who live in the CBD.

Further, there were 697 children aged 0 to 4 who also reside in postcode 3000.

But for most of the hundreds of parents weighing up where to send their kids once they reach Prep age, despite living in the densest part of the state, there are no options within walking distance.

The demand, however, is certainly there.

In nearby Docklands, it was clear from the outset that the 525-student school would take little time to hit capacity, a parent told sister publication Docklands News last month.

“It was apparent to the school community on our first day,” Mary Masters said.

“One hundred and ten preps enrolled, and we all thought ‘what, what do you mean? Is there going to be 110 preps every year?’ And yes, there has been.”

The Department of Education has since admitted that “strong demand has exceeded forecasted needs for Docklands Primary School”, and it has now been forced to move classes into empty retail space at The District Docklands shopping centre from July, to the disappointment of many in the school community.

So, is a CBD-based primary school something that should be weighed up by the State Government?

Katie Roberts-Hull, a former primary school teacher who has worked in education policy for the past 10 years, believes they should.

“There’s so many kids that live in postcode 3000 that don’t have a school there,” she told CBD News.

 

There’s a lot of school-aged kids that are going to be looking for a school … it would match up to the planning professionals’ plans, which I believe is to keep growing residences in the CBD. That would mean there’s going to be even more school-aged kids living there over the next decade.

 

“The fact that Docklands built up so quickly is representative of how many families are there. Docklands is a great school, and it would be really exciting to see another school in the CBD.”

It is something that has been tried before.

Melbourne City School, an initiative of Eltham College for Prep to Year 8 students, opened in 2010 at the corner of King and Little Collins streets.

However by the end of 2012 the school was closed, according to Eltham College, as it “could not attract enrolments in the numbers needed to be financially viable”.

In 2017, elite private school Haileybury College opened a 10-storey vertical school one block north of the CBD in West Melbourne, directly opposite Flagstaff Gardens.

The high-fee-paying school is, however, not an option for many parents.

Primary school enrolments for families living in the CBD are currently split into two.

Those residing west of Queen St have been designated Docklands Primary as their “local school” by the state government. This means children “must be offered a place when seeking enrolment”.

Carlton Gardens Primary School is the designated school for those living east of Queen St.

Ms Roberts-Hull said that while there were distinct challenges with vertical schools, it was nothing that hasn’t been overcome elsewhere.

“In an ideal world you’d have a park next to the school, like Haileybury does with Flagstaff Gardens,” she said.

“[Otherwise] you have to be a bit creative with outdoor space. Some schools use their rooftops as garden areas … lots of cities around the world have examples of schools like that.” •

 

Caption: Katie Roberts-Hull believes the state government should explore a primary school in the CBD.

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