Question Time: Mount Gambier High Schools

Thursday November 14, 2019

Mr BELL (Mount Gambier) (14:44): My question is to the Minister for—

The Hon. D.G. Pisoni interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The Minister for Innovation is called to order. Member for Mount Gambier.

Mr BELL: My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister inform the house what measures are being implemented at Grant and Mount Gambier high schools in my electorate to cater for year 7s entering high school?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (14:45): I thank the member for the question. It is a pleasure to be able to talk about Grant High School and Mount Gambier High School. I know the member was interested when I was in Mount Gambier late last year—I think it was in November; yes, 11 November last year, a bit over a year ago. We visited both high schools. We were able to announce at the time that the Mount Gambier High School had been successful in their bid to be one of our five new entrepreneurial high schools around South Australia. That is a program that is currently rolling out and, in due course, from 2022, we will include the year 7s in that program when the year 7s are at Mount Gambier High School.

We were also able to visit Grant High School and spend time with some of the VET students who were building a house out the back of the high school, a transportable home, which is then able to be sold on, giving those students a real-world perspective on potential future employment pathways. It is a terrific program.

I am also very pleased to get good advice about Mount Gambier from a reasonably regular point of view as former principal Gary Costello is helping me out as one of my advisers in my office. When we were in Mount Gambier, it seemed that the only person more popular than the member for Mount Gambier walking down the street was Mr Costello, who almost everybody had worked with, worked for or indeed studied under. People were very eager to speak to their former principal.

Grant High School and Mount Gambier High School are both going to have to have increased capacity—about 100 students each—as part of the transition of year 7 to high school. Both have capital works projects underway. Grant High School, which has in the order of 800 students at the moment, has a $7 million capital works upgrade, which we released the concept plans for earlier this week. The member for Mount Gambier was good enough to bring the principal, Fleur Roachock, and the governing council chair, Damian Buckley, into my office to have a chat about the scope of that project, and I believe that they are very pleased.

We are introducing additional general learning areas and specialist learning areas, including a science lab. There is the removal of aged transportable buildings, some of those very old wooden asbestos transportables that are being removed; the construction of a new building to house a performing arts facility and general learning areas; a new canteen; and a new student courtyard hub with covered outdoor areas for individual and group study. The Grant High School project is progressing very well.

Mount Gambier High School has 857 students at the moment and a $6 million capital works upgrade, and I believe we are just weeks away from the concept plans being available for that. Part of the work that is necessary for these schools to be able to offer a 21st century learning program—which the year 7s deserve, and they will also benefit from being able to receive the Australian curriculum in the circumstances for which the Australian Curriculum is designed, the year 7-8 program obviously being designed as a high school program—is having great information technology and internet services available in a school.

I can advise the member for Mount Gambier that both the Grant High School and the Mount Gambier High School were connected to the new high-speed fibre optic internet connection that the Marshall Liberal government has been investing in. They were connected on 19 July, so they are now able to benefit already from that high-speed internet connection, which will be critically important and an opportunity for those year 7s to engage in the modern curriculum. TAFE facilities in Mount Gambier are relevant to the students at Mount Gambier High School and Grant High School.

The member would be aware that we have recently released a new vocational education and training policy for our school students across South Australia, and they engage with TAFE very readily. Indeed, we visited the TAFE campus, and last year we were able to complete the reinvigoration program at the Mount Gambier TAFE campus, and the digital efficiency program at TAFE is due to be completed in March 2020, which will also benefit those students at Mount Gambier and Grant high schools.