Keep Schools Open

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Keep Schools Open

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Balgowlah North Public School P&C Association started this petition to Michelle Johns (Assets Management Unit, NSW Dept. of Education) and

KEEP SCHOOLS OPEN

Balgowlah North Public School (BNPS) P&C has been informed the NSW Department of Education will be installing a 2.1 metre high security fence around our school. The same policy will also be applied to as yet unfenced schools in the Manly area.

This decision has been made without any community consultation to date.

Other local schools, such as Balgowlah Heights Public School and Manly Village Public School have already had the fencing installed, meaning the school grounds are locked after hours and over weekends, denying access to these great community spaces.

This appears to be part of a one size fits all department policy and doesn’t take into account the location of our school, the low incidence of vandalism and how our broader community utilises the fantastic open space and facilities the school is blessed with. School spaces like these are excellent community assets, providing a safe venue for kids and families to engage socially while also promoting an active outdoor lifestyle. The decision to enclose the school in 8’ high fencing is at odd’s with School Infrastructure NSW’s Share our Space objective, which identifies local school’s as the beating heart of the community.

Over recent years, the BNPS school parent community has raised and invested over $450,000 to upgrade the facilities at the school. If the planned fencing were to be installed, the community would no longer have access to the facilities they paid for after hours and on weekends.

In addition, both BNPS and Seaforth Public School are privileged beneficiaries of the 2019 Manly Electorate My Community Project grant process. The projects received over 5,000 votes from Manly residents supporting the $85,000 investment to enhance the facilities at these institutions for the benefit of the broader community. This funding will allow BNPS to develop an all-weather sporting hub and Seaforth a community nature playground in 2020.

Both projects are designed to foster greater community engagement through enhanced infrastructure at our respective schools and the grants were awarded on the requirement they be open to the community outside of school hours.

Any fencing of these facilities would prevent school families and the broader community from benefitting from the grant spend they had voted for.

We totally support safe environments for school students and the teaching staff, but we need to approach these kinds of decisions armed with the relevant facts and a balanced approach. We strongly believe a 2m high security fence and locked gates is not required to maintain safety and security at our local schools and there are alternatives which could solve these safety concerns.

Locking up the schools after hours and on weekends will have a significant impact on the local communities given the very limited amount of alternative public space. Without the school as a local hub, there will be a decline in the social bonds within the community. Numerous local sporting clubs utilise the facilities for training and matches. The planned restricted access will have a significant detrimental impact on local sporting programs, at a time when the Northern Beaches area is desperate for more playing fields. At a time when childhood obesity levels are reaching epidemic proportions, it is crucial that we don't limit spaces that promote healthy activity.

The material amount of money that will be spent on this unnecessary and unwanted fencing, could be better utilised to fund additional teaching resourcies or educational programs. Recent benchmarking shows that NSW's education standards are declining against global peers. As a result, we implore the department to allocate its limited budget to initiatives that enhance education. 

The planned construction works will also require the removal of a significant number of mature trees around the school. This will completely change the current aesthetically pleasing look and feel of these leafy school grounds.

If the fencing of BNPS occurs without consultation and support of the local community, it will certainly happen to other unfenced schools in the Manly area.

If you value the access your community has to our schools' open spaces, please sign our petition to support a KEEP SCHOOLS OPEN campaign until all stakeholders have agreed an appropriate solution.

Thank you.

Balgowlah North Public School P&C Association

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