Merger of Balaklava schools laid to rest

Education Minister, Jay Weatherill, meets head boy Douglas Howard, during a tour of Balaklava High School’s new ag-science building with principal Mark Healy and governing council chairperson, Louise Michael.

STATE Education Minister Jay Weatherill dropped in to the Balaklava High and Primary Schools yesterday in the wake of  an amalgamation of the two coming to a halt.
Mr Weatherill toured both schools during his morning visit, inspecting facilities and discussing the amalgamation concept, which has now been abolished.
With the amalgamation scheduled for 2013, he said the decision to abandon the compulsory amalgamations, made at Parliament last week,  was made relatively early in the process.
“From early discussions it became obvious amalgamations were a bit more complex when involving some high schools and primary schools,” he said.
He added the amalgamations were driven by strong savings in the education budget – but it also became apparent the savings were either going to be minimal or nonexistent in a many cases. Given a number of schools have devised future concept models in preparation for the amalgamation, Mr Weatherill said the schools had the option of continuing on with an amalgamation if they wished.
An amalgamation plan had been developed in Balaklava, but on behalf of Balaklava High School governing council, chairperson, Louise Michael, presented Mr Weatherill with a letter advising him the school did not wish to merge.
Mr Weatherill said he accepted the school’s decision.
He said upgrade and improvement concepts devised by the school under the Education Works Program will remain relevant in future funding submissions.
“Many high schools around the state are in need of upgrades and there is a process by which they can apply for funding for those,” Mr Weatherill said. “If funding happens to become available, these plans are still valid propositions and we will be happy to look at them.”
While the amalgamation concept has been abandoned, Mr Weatherill said close primary and high schools still could benefit from stronger working relationships.
He was also quizzed about the possibility of merging smaller schools dotted around the region into one central primary school.
Mr Weatherill said the amalgamations were mainly directed at schools in close proximity, which could be hosted on one site. He added if smaller schools elected to merge with a larger, central school, that was their choice.
“We’re not diverting from the voluntary amalgamation process,” Mr Weatherill said.