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Community outcry at plan to fence Miles Franklin school grounds and oval

Ian Bushnell 22 August 2019 31

Where the proposed 2.1-metre steel fence would go. Image: Supplied.

Miles Franklin Primary School in Evatt has been accused of a land grab and wanting to lock out the community by supporting a plan for the grounds, oval and adjoining green space to be fenced.

It is unclear where the idea originated, with some saying the Education Directorate approached the school and the Directorate and the Minister saying the proposal came from the school’s P&C.

But the proposal for a 2.1 metre high, black steel palisade fence around the entire school grounds has provoked a backlash from residents who rely on the oval and green space for recreation, and split the school community.

Residents view the plan as taking away green space that is used regularly before and after school and on weekends, and as being inconsistent with the Government’s own planning policies.

The Education Directorate is assisting the school with community consultation on the fence which the P&C says is needed to ensure the safety of students and staff and protect the school from vandalism.

The Canberra Liberals raised the issue in Question Time in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, with Education Minister Yvette Berry saying no decision had been made and it was a matter for the community, although it looked likely the oval would remain unfenced because of the Evatt community’s concerns.

One local resident who is also a school parent said Miles Franklin had many out-of-area families who would be unaffected by the oval’s enclosing but residents would be facing a steel fence only metres from their front doors and the appeal of the space would be lost.

“Children would be playing in enclosed prison like a fortress,” she said.

Many school parents believed the grounds were safe with few reported incidents and no major roads backing on to it.

The parent said the fence would also prevent children walking across the oval to and from school and create unsafe narrow laneways along the fence line.

“It would be quicker to drive to school than walk,” she said.

Resident Roslyn Emmerick said the community would accept a fence around the school buildings but the current proposal was excessive.

“It would be taking in green space directly behind my home that the school never uses,” she said.

Ms Emmerick’s children do not attend Miles Franklin but use the oval, and while gates are proposed these would be locked during school hours.

“It’s not just a straight 9-3, they have an after-school program until 6 pm. If you’re locking out the community until 6 pm it’s a huge swathe of area,” she said.

The next green space was more than a kilometre away, and much of the nearby housing was medium density townhouses or units.

Ms Emmerick said the fence proposal contradicted the ACT planning strategy of Livable Canberra and was inconsistent with what Government had done with other school ovals in Belconnen.

The Education Directorate said the Government had not made a decision to install the proposed fence nor had there been approval for any parts of the school and surrounding areas to be fenced.

“Any decision to install a fence will also need to be consistent with the Government’s policy about making sure school facilities are available to the whole community,” it said.

 Consultation will continue until 30 August and feedback can be provided to ICWDirectorsOffice@act.gov.au.

Community members are urging residents to contact their MLAs, and email the principal and the Directorate.

Miles Franklin is an International Baccalaureate school and considers itself a school of choice.


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31 Responses to Community outcry at plan to fence Miles Franklin school grounds and oval
Glen Fluit Glen Fluit 2:32 pm 24 Aug 19

I support the fence.

Kevin Hodder Kevin Hodder 7:27 am 24 Aug 19

High fences just preparing the kids for their futures in jail😂

Amanda Evans Amanda Evans 1:11 am 24 Aug 19

All these bloody fences...

Emma McNamara Emma McNamara 8:52 pm 23 Aug 19

Ledeca Gillies Knew there was some controversy

    Adam Monck Adam Monck 8:58 pm 23 Aug 19

    I've received numerous things in the mailbox about it...

    Emma McNamara Emma McNamara 9:00 pm 23 Aug 19

    Adam Monck I’m sure you have so many opinions on it too haha

    Adam Monck Adam Monck 9:01 pm 23 Aug 19

    Emma McNamara Why do they need a fence? They should be all inside learning.

Caroline Ozzie Caroline Ozzie 4:15 pm 23 Aug 19

I support fencing the school 100%,

In recent years, there have been reports of strangers approaching children in the Belconnen area. Protecting our children must come first. I'm sure the oval will be available to the community, after hours.

Brad Fraser Brad Fraser 1:10 pm 23 Aug 19

Is this standard practice for other government schools? What makes this school different? Are there plans to expand the school?

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 8:06 pm 23 Aug 19

    Brost Freezeman most schools are fenced but not to the extent of this proposal. Unless the oval has a community sporting group that wants to use it , the government won’t maintain it. How can you attract a group if your oval is in such poor condition. It’s a catch 22. This is the fight we have been having in Florey for years. The school adjoins the neighbourhood oval, it’s in terrible condition, the school tries to use it as they only have a small green space inside the fence. The school was told they could have the oval if they maintained it. No extra $$$ were going to be provided by the government though. Schools can’t find that $$ in their budgets. By all means fence the school but not the large green spaces.

Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 12:05 pm 23 Aug 19

They don't want much do they? Hands off the oval and green space.

Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Warren 11:37 am 23 Aug 19

I can understand the school being fenced, but does the oval really need fencing too?

Nathan Lofthouse Nathan Lofthouse 8:20 am 23 Aug 19

So fence the school in and fence the oval in separately.

Lock the oval off to the school when it's in session for childrens safety and lock the school grounds off but open the oval up out of school hours.

Then the school is protected and the community can access the oval when the school isn't using it.

the nearest green space's are 1/2 a km away adjacent to Copland college and the Melba oval which is 5-10 minutes walk.

    Terri Berri Terri Berri 7:28 am 24 Aug 19

    Nathan Lofthouse a whole 500m! If you're going there for exercise and recreation surely the added benefit of 5 mins of additional walking/riding is a positive?

    Nathan Lofthouse Nathan Lofthouse 7:34 am 24 Aug 19

    You're being facetious but you misread. The article says nearest green space is a km away, which it isn't and I was laughing at the fact people wont walk somewhere to exercise.

Amy LD Amy LD 6:55 am 23 Aug 19

Evatt Primary School is fenced and so is MCSS- use the Melba ovals which are in perfect condition all year round.

Ken Mansell Ken Mansell 10:51 pm 22 Aug 19

Don’t you love the way with all these school fences the Government and the Education Department put the volunteers on the P&C on the front line. To get a fence from the Government, they require the P&C to give approval… this is not consultation but putting the poor P&C volunteers in the veto position so everyone blames them and the Government washes it’s hands. This is so wrong. The Government should ask for the opinion of the P&C but they should make the final decision and stop hiding behind hard working volunteers.

Karen Cullen Karen Cullen 9:50 pm 22 Aug 19

I live near Miles Franklin and I fully support a fence for the safety of the children from random people and dogs and prevent children running off. It will also hopefully reduce vandalism. Most schools are now fenced - I’ve always wondered why miles franklin wasn’t fenced.

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 7:59 pm 23 Aug 19

    Karen Cullen but not the adjoining oval

    Chris Reis Chris Reis 7:21 pm 19 Sep 19

    By all mean fence the school and it's immediate grounds but NOT the oval which has been public greenspace for over 40 years

Avril Pounds Avril Pounds 9:46 pm 22 Aug 19

I don't know the exact situation for Miles Franklin, but I know a lot of schools are increasing their fencing due to an increase in vandalism.

Gabrielle Sullivan Gabrielle Sullivan 9:30 pm 22 Aug 19

Obviously fencing the community oval as well as the school is total overreach, but I don’t even support a fence around a school unless their is a clearly proven need for it. What, exactly, is the evidence to prove any safety concerns are real? Even if this evidence exists (which should be made public before any decision is made), is there a less divisive/restrictive way of addressing these concerns? The fence will be there long after the current students leave. This is an important decision, not to be rushed. Safety is good. So is freedom.

Julia Ross Julia Ross 7:52 pm 22 Aug 19

Most schools around are fenced with this high black spiked palisade. Evatt is just joining them. I personally don't agree with the fences, but I guess children must run off more than ever before. We always knew the boundaries. Also more damage is done after school hours.

    Lauren Medcalf Lauren Medcalf 9:40 pm 26 Aug 19

    Julia Ross definitely not a problem with children running off. It’s the vandalism out of school hours which is costing schools thousands of dollars every year. Comes a time when enough is enough and unless the community steps up and addresses the vandalism maybe they don’t deserve the use of the schools grounds

Natalie Smith Natalie Smith 7:32 pm 22 Aug 19

The school grassed area isn't very big at the school and if it isn't fenced the school can't use it in school hours. There will be a gate that will be open out of school hours so everyone can use it at anytime. To me it doesn't make sense to have an oval that hardly ever gets used as it isn't maintained or used as a sports oval and not usable for the school kids either.

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 8:14 pm 22 Aug 19

    Natalie Smith why can’t the school use undenied areas, that’s rubbish as Ngunnawal primary fenced the school but not the ovals.

Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 7:23 pm 22 Aug 19

How ridiculous. You don’t need to fence off that much space to protect a school from vandalism. Our local primary school is fenced but it doesn’t include the neighbourhood oval that adjoins it. This is community space and should be available for the community to use it whenever it wants to.

    Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 9:25 pm 22 Aug 19

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason How is a school a community space?

    Elspeth Shannon Rollason Elspeth Shannon Rollason 9:56 pm 22 Aug 19

    Ben Roberts the oval and green space is community space but schools essentially are too

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 3:09 pm 25 Aug 19

    Ben Roberts We came to Canberra in 1976 and schools were considered community space which is why they weren’t fenced.

    Chris Reis Chris Reis 10:41 pm 25 Aug 19

    Ben Roberts I think you misunderstand. The oval is NOT part of the school. For the past 40 odd years it has been a community space used for recreation by Evatt residents and the broader community. The oval's name is NOT Miles Franklin Oval, it's official name is South West Evatt Oval should remain an open greenspace for the communities unrestricted use.

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