Why can’t our kids go to the local school?
This year a new campus for North Melbourne Primary School will open on Molesworth St, just a 13 minute-walk from the local public housing towers.
But Fatima, who lives on the sixth floor of one of the towers, can’t go to the new school.
Her dad has printed off a map that shows how the school zoning excludes her.
Instead, she will have to walk to Debney Meadows in Flemington, crossing busy roads and on and off ramps to Citylink.
School zoning has become a hot issue at the towers known as 12 Sutton St and 33 Alfred St, where parents are petitioning for access to the local primary school.
“We want our children to be given the opportunity to attend the local North Melbourne Primary School,” community advocate for the estate Awil Hassan Hussein said.
The issue for Mr Hussein, whose daughter Fatima wants to be a teacher, and 500 other families, is access to good education. The local State MP Ellen Sandell supports their campaign.
“Many families living in our North Melbourne public housing towers were understandably surprised when they found out they are not zoned to the same local school as many of their neighbours,” she said.
“The opening of the new Molesworth St campus at North Melbourne Primary presents an opportunity to re-look at the local school zones to make sure all kids – whether they live in public or private housing – get access to the same great local education.”
The zoning for Debney Meadows includes the towers in Flemington and two of the towers in North Melbourne, creating a ghetto, Mr Hussein said.
“The high-rise buildings all send to the one school so there is no diversity. It’s nearly 100 per cent from non-English speaking backgrounds.”
Caption: Awil Hassan Hussein wants his daughter Fatima to go to the local school.
Photo: Rhonda Dredge.
“We want to be part of the mainstream society,” he said. “You want your kids to grow up and still have pride in your culture.”
“You want your kids to have good schooling and have everyone mixing with kids of different background. We don’t want to be stigmatised in an enclave.”
Ms Sandell has received a response from the Minister for Education, claiming that school zoning is governed by distance.
“The government has in both responses stated that ‘usually the nearest government school in a straight line from the child’s permanent address’”.
Mr Hussein said the Ministry hasn’t taken into account the opening of the new primary school. From 12 Sutton St, in a straight line, it is 825 metres to the new Molesworth campus and 870 metres to Debney Meadows Primary.
He said many parents at 12 Sutton St send their children to private schools rather than Debney Meadows.
“People don’t want to send their kids to the school because of the stigma.”
My niece travels to a private school in Dallas near Broadmeadows.”
A petition with 400 signatures will be presented to the government.
According to the Department of Education (DET) a parent can apply to enrol their child at any government school that is not their designated neighbourhood government school.
“Every child is able to enrol at their designated neighbourhood government school or, if there is sufficient accommodation, at another government school,” a DET spokesperson said.
A statement from the government said in accordance with the department’s placement policy, schools should accept enrolments from outside their zone once all enrolment requests from children within that zone were confirmed.
The statement added a school should also accept a request for enrolment if it aligns with the school’s enrolment management plan (if it has one). A school zone defines an area’s designated neighbourhood government school (local school).
Families can look up their school zone online at: findmyschool.vic.gov.au.
The government said the website was updated this year to reflect the 13 new schools and campuses set to open in 2023, along with changes to existing school zones to reflect changes in school provision •
Caption: Awil Hassan Hussein (front left), Melbourne MP Ellen Sandell (front right) and locals with their petition to change school zoning in the area.
Photography by Ajay Viswanath.