By TONY FOSTER
Mayor of Brighton
THE development of a new high school at Brighton is great news for our municipality and will add to the valuable education outcomes being achieved by the Jordan River Learning Federation.
The State Government’s $3-million funding commitment in its most recent State budget to enable the initial planning and community consultation, is a great start as is its promise to complete the development in this four-year parliamentary term.
The Liberal party promised the new high school, catering for years seven to 12 at this year’s State election and the early honouring of that promise is welcomed.
I have campaigned long for the new high school to cater for our growing community and also to provide additional education choices for students living in our surrounding region.
Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff is deserving of special praise. He listened to our representations and he was able to convince his colleagues in Government that a new high school at Brighton was not only good politics, but also was needed by our community. Pleasingly, Opposition Leader Rebecca White will not oppose the project, so there will be no parliamentary impediments to slow the project.
As well as all the usual high school facilities, the new $30-million purpose-built school will include state-of-the-art learning areas to cater specifically for years 11 and 12 students.
Brighton is one of the fastest growing areas in Tasmania, and with almost 700 students from the Brighton and Southern Midlands areas, Brighton Primary School is one of the largest primary schools in the State.
The Brighton Council is a strong believer that improving educational outcomes plays a major role in enhancing social and community outcomes in the municipality. The original Jordan River Learning Federation (JRLF) initiative provided an opportunity to establish a revolutionary educational model for students from zero to year 12. While it is doing great work for our young people, unfortunately, the initial concept has been diluted over time.
Undoubtedly, JRLF caters very well for children in Bridgewater, Gagebrook and Herdsmans Cove, and this will continue. However, each year, virtually all grade six leavers from Brighton, bypass JRLF to attend schools in Glenorchy and central Hobart.
Regrettably, the Federation’s active, positive promotion to Brighton students and families over many years has not succeeded and each school day, hundreds of extra vehicles travel south taking children to private and government schools outside the municipality.
As a consequence, the establishment of a high school in Brighton, offering years seven to 12, has been a priority of Brighton Council for many years and this will now become a reality over the next four years.
The high school will also serve the Southern Midlands and Central Highlands communities, eliminated the barriers of extensive travel for hundreds of students and their families.
There can be no doubt that the absence of a high school has constrained growth and discouraged young families from moving to Brighton. The Government’s commitment is commendable, and with Council, I will be working closely with Education Minister Rockliff to progress the development as quickly as possible.
The first step is comprehensive community consultation to help determine an appropriate site for the new school, which is expected to significantly alleviate congestion on the Midland Highway by giving more students access to education in their own area.
There is certainly sufficient land available in Brighton and Council has already identified potential sites. There is a large, ready-made student population and the added advantage of proximity to the Farm School which has also received a budget allocation of $4.3 million to improve facilities.
Brighton community members are invited to have their say on the high school project via the website: www.education.tas.gov.au
And Brighton Council is holding a public meeting to consult with the community on its preferred site for the new Brighton High School. It will report the outcome of the meeting to the Department of Education as input to its community consultation process. It will be held at the Brighton Bowls and Community Club, on Monday, July 16 at 7pm. We are urging residents to attend.
The Brighton municipality is currently among the fastest growing regions in Tasmania and over the next decade is predicted to grow more rapidly than any other local government area in the State. Indeed, the Demographic Change Advisory Committee predicts that our population will grow by 55 percent in that time and could be as high as 26,000 by 2032.
While much of this growth will be around the Brighton township, it will also spread throughout the municipality and the surrounding regional areas. Without doubt, a key factor in harnessing this growth and meeting community expectations is the provision of appropriate education opportunities close to where people live.
This, as well as increasing employment opportunities are the keys to keeping families in the Brighton municipality and securing our future growth and prosperity.
The State Government has recognised this and that is an extremely positive result following our many years of representations.