“I want to make it absolutely clear that Pascoe Vale Girls’ Secondary College will remain an all-girls school,” the minister told parliament last week.
Lizzie Blandthorn, the Labor MP for Pascoe Vale, also told parliament that making the school co-ed was “not the answer to the concerns raised”.
“A public girls’ school should remain an option in Melbourne’s northern suburbs, just as it remains an option in the city and to the east of the city,” Blandthorn said.
“Indeed, remove that option and there is the very real possibility that some girls will be denied access to secondary education outright.”
Elsewhere, Mentone Girls’ Secondary College saw a 6% drop in student numbers and Matthew Flinders Girls’ Secondary College in Geelong saw a 9.72% drop.
But not all public schools for girls have diminished in number. Melbourne Girls College in Richmond rose 1.33%, while Canterbury Girls Secondary College held firm.
Karen Money, former principal of Melbourne Girls’ College, now executive director of the Department for Education and Training, said it was important to keep all state schools all girls in Victoria so that pupils and parents have a choice.
“There are a lot of mixed schools; there are not many single-sex schools left which are public schools and therefore accessible to [all] families,” she said.
Recent closures, including Preston Girls High in 2016 and the merger of Gilmore College for Girls’ with Footscray High in 2020, have reduced the number of all-girls state schools in Victoria.
Money said it was important to provide single-sex schools with a healthy learning environment free from “teenage angst”.
“All that teenage bargaining; what we found was that girls could really focus on academia and their areas of passion, without having to compete with teenagers in the classroom,” she said.
Former Independent Wills MP Phil Cleary has backed RISE’s North Moreland Schools campaign, saying Pascoe Vale Girls “has a level of status that would allow it to develop into an attractive and successful coeducational high school. quality”.
“We have a major problem in that we’re seeing a drift from public schools to the private sector,” Cleary said.
“We need to make sure that the schools in these areas are diverse, but provide every opportunity for children who aspire to college and career life,” he said.
“We need to provide schools that are well-resourced and attractive to ensure that ambitious parents don’t fall into the myth that the only way to have their children succeed is through a private school.”
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