The tightening of access to ACT’s schools for cross-border families and the Yass Valley’s burgeoning population has fast-forwarded funding for a new school in Murrumbateman.
In a pre-Budget announcement from the NSW Government, Member for Goulburn Pru Goward said funding would be allocated to begin planning for a new primary school for Murrumbateman in the 2018-19 Budget to be released on 19 June.
Ms Goward said the decision followed growing community calls for its own local school, an assessment of local enrolment projections and recent changes to the school enrolment policy by the ACT Government.
She told ABC radio that this Budget funding would only be for the planning phase but she envisaged the new school to be ready by 2020-21 or 2021-22, instead of the original target of 2026.
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“Clearly there is more development there and lots of young families, it’s got the biggest pre-school in the Yass Valley Shire,” she said.
“And the ACT Government is not willingly taking students from NSW any more.”
Families in NSW are being refused entry to ACT schools that are already full, and are being directed to others with places, such as those in Tuggeranong that will add considerably to daily journeys.
In the interim the closest school to Murrumbateman is Berinba Public School in Yass, which is using demountables to absorb the growth.
“It’s not a great option for Murrumbateman families but one they are going to have to use for the next couple of years,” Ms Goward said.
Shire Counsellor Mike Reid, who has been campaigning for the Murrumbateman school for the past five years, said the new ACT enrolment position had been pivotal in the NSW decision to bring forward development of a new school.
“The pressure has been put back on the parents to go back into Yass and to school there. I think that’s probably been pivotal over these past few months but this has been building for years,” he told ABC radio.
“This is why I started campaigning five years ago, I could see what was happening. Parents were complaining that they just couldn’t get their kids into school in the ACT.”
He said Murrumbateman had been growing at 5.6 per cent a year for the past 20 years.
A 2014 department report had said that the target of 300 children would be reached in 2026 but Cr Reid said he had told the department then that Murrumbateman had already exceeded that and was well on the way to 500.
He said Berinba was a nice school but not fit for 500 students, “which is what would happen if all those kids went there”.