Question without notice: My question is for the Minister for Education. The Greater Shepparton Secondary College opened this year, bringing together four local secondary colleges on the site of the former Shepparton High School. While not the biggest school in Victoria—it has about 2200 students—it has facilities we have not seen in Mooroopna and Shepparton before and offers a breadth of subjects that would not have been possible in the individual schools. The community is now discussing the many opportunities that may exist for the redundant school sites, whether they could be a home for the new Verney Road special school or the expansion of TAFE facilities or other educational uses. Minister, what is the current government plan for these sites?
Answer: I thank the independent member for Shepparton for her question and say at the outset what an absolute pleasure it was to join the Premier, the independent member for Shepparton and a member for Northern Victoria, Mark Gepp, in the other place at the official opening of the school in February. It has been years in the making. This is one of the most transformative education projects in regional Victoria. Students in Shepparton and Mooroopna deserve the very best facilities and the broadest opportunities—this year 54 electives in year 9 and the full suite of VCE and vocational opportunities. I want to acknowledge the independent member for Shepparton for her advocacy, her leadership and her passion for education for not just this school but for the entire Shepparton Education Plan.
As the member points out, there is a high level of community interest in the sites that have been vacated—the former Wanganui Park Secondary College, McGuire Secondary College and Mooroopna Secondary College sites. I am happy to report that all existing community use agreements will remain in place in 2022 and beyond, but I am happy to provide the member with more detail.
The Wanganui Park Secondary College site will be retained for education purposes. My department is reviewing long-term provision for students with additional needs in Shepparton and Mooroopna, and I want to again acknowledge the advocacy of the honourable member in regard to special needs in that community. This work is particularly important given the enrolment pressures at Verney Road School. The former Wanganui Park Secondary College does open up opportunities for the state to address specialist provision in the future, and next steps are being considered right now. We have also agreed to a shared-use arrangement with the local council to facilitate continued community use of the Visy centre. I am happy to report that we have agreed with council for the community use of the adjacent oval, with both parties finalising details now. In addition, we have agreed for the scouts and the Goulburn Valley Woodworkers group to continue on the site ongoing, and again details are being finalised this month.
In terms of the former McGuire College site, this includes the expansion of the Goulburn Murray Trade Skills Centre operated by GOTAFE as well as considering the potential to locate future education facilities adjacent to the neighbouring Wilmot Road Primary School. We are facilitating community use of the oval area and the stadium through a shared use agreement, and we are exploring the use of vacated school buildings by other community groups. In terms of the future of Mooroopna, I know the member for Shepparton and the local community are interested in discussing the future use of this site and I commit to doing just that.
Supplementary Question: Minister, before the amalgamation of these schools, Mooroopna Secondary College had dwindled to a pupil base of some 300 students. However, it is home to the Westside Performing Arts Centre and it is a major arts facility in our region that is regularly used by the whole of our community. Opportunities abound for further cultural and arts opportunities on this site, given what it currently has on it. So, Minister, will you guarantee that this school site will not be disposed of prior to there being a full investigation into how it might be reimagined as a community or arts facility?
Answer: I thank the honourable member for her supplementary question. I can absolutely assure the member for Shepparton and the local community that the government has no intention whatsoever to dispose of this site before deep engagement with the community with regard to its long-term use. The Westside Performing Arts Centre is a major performing arts space for the community, much loved, and as the member is aware, we have an existing joint use agreement with the local council for the performing arts centre at the site and we have also agreed on an arrangement with the council to facilitate community use of the adjacent indoor stadium. My department to date has been focused on those existing community facilities—the performing arts centre and the stadium. We will now turn our mind to the future use of the balance of the site, and I can assure the member for Shepparton that the Andrews government will continue to work with the member and the community on options to ensure the best long-term use of that site.