New Education and Training Minister Sue Ellery has opened the door to an alternative design for a controversial city-based school.
In her first interview since moving into her ministerial office in Dumas House, Ms Ellery, 54, vowed the new State Government would push ahead with a key election pledge to strip Perth Modern School of its academically selective status and move the State’s brightest pupils to Northbridge by 2020.
“We announced it six weeks before the election, everybody knew where we stood on that and I think we got a clear mandate to proceed,” she said.
But Ms Ellery raised doubts over whether the school would be in a high-rise building, even though the policy document described it as a “vertical school”, complete with dedicated lifts and an outdoor playing space on the roof.
“People are calling it high-rise but the height actually is entirely dependent on the design and we haven’t begun the conversations about that yet,” she said.
Though Perth Modern was a beautiful campus, she said, the city-based school would be able to improve on what was provided for bright students in the arts and sciences.
She said the site and the buildings were just one component of what made a really successful school, when what really mattered was what went on inside the classroom.
Ms Ellery, who has experience as minister for child protection in the Carpenter Labor government, said that within hours of being sworn in on Friday she had requested advice for other education options for students accused of sexual offences to keep them out of schools.
“I can really understand parents’ distress about finding out that their child is attending a school with another student who has been charged with a sexual offence,” she said.
Ms Ellery also said she believed WA had to do a better job educating Aboriginal students, and it was one of the first areas on which she would receive a detailed briefing from the Education Department.
Other priorities included carrying out an ambitious capital works program and getting on top of her new training portfolio, which she said would play a big part in the Government’s blueprint for creating jobs.
She said one the biggest challenges facing the government was the “diabolical” state of the books it had inherited.
Ms Ellery spent part of her childhood in Melbourne and Canberra, where her father worked as a journalist.
She attended Newman College before studying politics at the University of WA and working for unions.