Minister’s comments spark backlash

Sam JonesNorth West Telegraph
Education Minister Sue Ellery. COVID-19 (coronavirus) update Press Conference at WA Parliament House, Perth WA. 17 APRIL 2020
Camera IconEducation Minister Sue Ellery. COVID-19 (coronavirus) update Press Conference at WA Parliament House, Perth WA. 17 APRIL 2020 Credit: Danella Bevis The West Australian

The Hedland Senior High School community has hit back at Education Minister Sue Ellery’s claims the school has received “all the necessary funding”.

Ms Ellery’s comments were made in response to a North West Telegraph article which highlighted that in the recent round of funding schools, including the recently built Karratha Senior High School, had received millions of dollars while HSHS got nothing.

Enrolment at Karratha Senior High School has grown from 983 students in 2016 to 1213 in 2020.

During the same period, Hedland Senior High School saw enrolment increase from 808 students in 2016 to 931 students in 2020, an increase of 15.2 per cent.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Parents and staff at the school in South Hedland said buildings and facilities had become severely run down because of a lack of maintenance, while computers and other equipment were completely broken and students were forced to sit out in the sun without adequate shade structures.

Dean Alston cartoon. Port Hedland High School.
Camera IconDean Alston cartoon. Port Hedland High School. Credit: The West Australian

It received $15 million through Royalties for Regions last year after principal Bill Mann penned a letter to the State Government, saying it was in a “state of disrepair” leading to a “poor learning environment”.

But calls for additional funds from the WA Government to fix issues at the school were last week dismissed by Ms Ellery, who said it had “all the necessary funding”.

“The recovery fund allocated funds to some 60-odd schools out of the 800 across Western Australia,” she said.

“Not every school got funding.

“The decision of which schools were included was driven by a couple of things — their enrolment pressure and when they last got an upgrade.

“The $15m for Hedland was a serious investment and it addressed the things the school asked us to address.”

HSHS Parents and Citizens vice-president Michelle Nethercote said she was disheartened by Ms Ellery’s comments.

“HSHS is growing in student numbers and requires access to more funding to support the growth,” she said.

“We acknowledge that Karratha High is a larger school, though it’s only seven years old, and Roebourne High is a much smaller school than ours yet received $42m — where is the justification for that?

“Without a doubt, Hedland Senior High School has improved in recent years. We attribute that to the dedicated work of the teachers and support staff for this.

“We appreciate the $15m allocated from Royalties for Regions last year, but the school had to choose between providing a staff room or change-room facilities for the students rather than being able to include everything required in the new gymnasium build.”

Ms Nethercote welcomed the inclusion of Pilbara schools in the Solar Schools program but said she would like to see a focus on long-term planning for the school’s growth.

Department of Education director-general Lisa Rodgers also visited the school last week and was greeted by students enrolled in extra-curricular STEM projects around the school.

A number of students, who the North West Telegraph has chosen not to name, publicly voiced concerns over “a lack of capital” in their coursework prohibiting them from getting the best of their education.

WA Nationals candidate for the Pilbara Scott Bourne said despite “plenty of chest-beating” about what Labor had planned for school upgrades and rebuilds in WA, when it came to Hedland, the Government had only thrown loose change at the problem.

“While the local member has twice trumpeted the funding for HSHS in the media over the last 12 months, the injection came on the advice of BHP in a royalties back-payment,” he said.

“The contribution from BHP is greatly appreciated, but the funding won’t fix all of the problems at Hedland High. “There was $60m set aside in the WA Recovery Plan for a state-of-the-art secondary school to be built, but nothing for Hedland, which has had its problems well publicised.”

In response to comments made by the WA Nationals, Ms Ellery urged residents to look at past governments’ response to the same issues.

“Think about what the National Party did when they not only were in government but the local member was the minister for Royalties for Regions — they did nothing,” she said.

HSHS principal Bill Mann said he wanted all Hedland students to be motivated, respectful, proactive in their learning and aspirational.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails