Overcrowding enquiry begins
COPING with exam stress is tough enough for most Year 12 students.
But for Matthew Farrell, who graduated from Warwick State High School last year, it was the constant upheaval of living between Warwick and his home in Allora due to early starts which played havoc with his timetable.
With the Department of Education and Training (DET) denying there is an issue of overcrowding at the high school but agreeing to send its regional director for an inspection this week, Matthew’s grandparents Lillian and Ron Farrell decided it was time to speak up.
“I know Matthew has already left school, but I don’t imagine much has changed in a year,” Mr Farrell said.
The bus from Matthew’s home near Mount Marshall left at 8am, but his first class started at 7.50am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with some students starting even earlier at 7.30.
Fortunately his grandparents live in Warwick and to get to class on time, he stayed with them during the week.
“Of course we loved having him here,” Mrs Farrell said.
“And he was lucky he had somewhere to go, but it’s not the same for everyone.”
Matthew would get free periods at other times to make up for the early starts but this left him in the middle of a Wednesday wandering town with nothing to do.
“There’s no room at the high school, so the kids have to go up the street,” Mr Farrell said.
“Who is responsible for them when they’re outside the school grounds?”
Mr and Mrs Farrell said they had been told students weren’t allowed to use Hamilton Oval unless for sporting activities and when supervised by a teacher.
They said on rainy days it was even more difficult for students to find shelter.
“Grade 12 is such an important year for them. They need a routine,” Mr Farrell said.
With Slade Campus mooted as an option to expand WSHS, Mr and Mrs Farrell have been involved in the Save Our Slade campaign and were yesterday delivering flyers around town inviting the public to another open day this Saturday.
After attending the last open day, the couple said they were concerned by some of the responses given by DET regional director Greg Dickman, who said if the school were to expand, it would be upward, not to a split campus.
“They are saying they are going to build up – that’s fine, but where do the kids go when they come out of the classrooms?” Mr Farrell said.
Though the department rejects the belief there will be a significant increase in students in forthcoming years, the Farrells are adamant there will be a big growth.
“There are 70 pupils in Grade 7 at Warwick West alone. If the government decides to put Grade 7s into high school (in 2014), that is a lot of pupils,” Mr Farrell said.
Mr Dickman is set to visit the school tomorrow “to further allay unwarranted concerns”.
In a recent statement he defended the early and late staggered starts by saying, “flexible timetables are a useful tool in managing learning needs and access to facilities for students”.
“We are not aware of any students having difficulty with this. Any student or parent with concerns should contact the school,” Mr Dickman said.
The Daily News asked to attend tomorrow’s inspection but was told it was private. This week the Daily News will focus on overcrowding at Warwick State High School.