By MAYOR TONY FOSTER
FOLLOWING on from the release of the vision for the future of education in the Brighton municipality, we have received a range of positive comments from community members, supporting Council’s policy.
The local farming community, parents, teachers and local businesses have supported the development of the promised new high school within the Brighton township and the relocation of the Jordan River Learning Federation School Farm to a bigger and better site on the Brighton outskirts.
As featured in this issue of Brighton Community News, one of our leading farmers, Richard Weston, has described moving the School Farm to a larger site adjacent to neighbouring farms as a ‘no brainer’.
And Richard should know. He is a highly successful and innovative farmer, and is already involved in farm educating, providing work experience for senior students from St Virgil’s College. He said if he was setting up a farm in the Brighton area, one place he would not choose would be the current site in the centre of town.
Richard clearly points out that the current School Farm site is too small to be sustainable. He describes the farm as tired, with poor soil, wrong orientation and hemmed in by residential development. He concludes that it will never be able to expand on the current site and that the location in the middle of a growing township is all wrong.
He says if the farm is relocated to a more appropriate site, local farmers involved in cropping, fruit and vegetable growing, vineyards and raising livestock can assist in providing hands-on, high standard agricultural and horticultural education, enabling students to obtain employment-ready skills and qualifications.
At the same time, there are many parents who support the new High School on the School Farm, site one of whom is Brighton resident, Scott Turnbull, who attended our community consultation at the Brighton Bowls and Community Club some months ago. Scott is extremely enthusiastic about the Brighton High School for both of his boys, one of whom is currently in kindergarten and one in grade one. Scott says that the new Brighton High School is so important for all children like his because it should be right next door to the Primary School to provide important educational and other linkages between the two institutions. He says it is vital the community look at the big picture and see how important it is to have the High School in the township rather than be disadvantaged by locating it out of town. He said he would be working hard with the community and his friends and colleagues to ensure that the new Brighton High School was suitably and appropriately located next to the Primary School.
Meanwhile, Brighton Council engineers are already working on traffic and parking solutions and their first draft is published in this issue of Brighton Community News. While the draft has been developed for discussion purposes only, it clearly demonstrates that a solution is available and that we can resolve any potential traffic and parking issues that may come with the new high school development.
While those who cling to history may like to see the School Farm remain at its existing location, the reality is that the current site is too small and there is no room for the expansion necessary to provide the desired educational outcomes.
On the other hand, there are no alternate sites for the new high school in Brighton itself, while there are a number of potential farm sites, in rural areas close to the township, that are better able to meet the needs of a school farm and agricultural and horticultural learning. Council would be prepared to purchase the land and provide a long-term lease to the Education Department, so reducing the capital cost of the relocation.
Moving the School Farm to a nearby rural site more in keeping with a genuine centre for agricultural and horticultural learning would allow it to expand upon its core activities and mission, as well as provide long-term security, free of the threats of land use conflict or environmental health issues associated with operating in an urban location.
It is important that those making the decision on the location of the new high school listen to those who know best – local farmers and parents of the children who will be attending the new high school.
Council has listened to these people and holds the strong view that the new Brighton High School must be developed on the current School Farm site.
By coming on board and proceeding on this path, the Education Department and the State Government will be making the right decision for the Brighton community, for the future of education in our municipality and for the future of the School farm.
Importantly, relocating the School Farm and building the new high school in the centre of Brighton will be in the best interests of our future high school students and for students of the Jordan River Learning Federation School farm.
Council remains determined to work with the State Government and the Education Department to deliver the right outcome for our community. It is incumbent on the Government and Department to now hear the informed comm unity views.