Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Labor candidate for the Northern Tablelands, Yvonne Langenberg, says she’s aware of the issues around Armidale Secondary College, and will consult with parents and other stakeholders on the school’s future direction.

Voters with children at Armidale Secondary College have raised with Ms Langenberg that there are issues as a result of the amalgamation of Duval and Armidale High into the single ‘super school’, which are impacting the educational outcomes of students. The schools were merged with much fan fare in 2018 when the current member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall was the Assistant Minister for Skills. However, there was little warning or consultation with the community before the decision was announced in 2017. Significant issues and challenges have faced teachers, students and parents at the new school, while rumours of corruption and conflicts of interest have never died down.

Since the new school on the old Armidale High site opened in January 2021, a litany of complaints and concerns surfaced from insufficient shade for students in playgrounds to not having enough furniture in class rooms. In June of 2021, teachers walked off the job to protest the situation, describing the amalgamation as a ‘complete failure’. In May of 2022 the school was 16 teachers short on a single day, leaving 12 classes unsupervised.

Social media posts from both parents and students have told of extreme violence in the school, regular visits by police, and high levels of bullying. Parents of neurodiverse children have expressed particular concern that their kids are not getting the support and attention they need, nor the sensory friendly environment they need, at the 1500 student capacity super school.

Example of one of the many posts to social media raising concern about Armidale Secondary College.

At the same time, there has also been recognition that trying to bed down a new culture at the merged school during Covid-19 has been particularly hard, and some students have done very well at the merged school. Supporters have pointed to the 15 year 12 students who made it on to the Distinguished Achiever’s List from the 2022 HSC as evidence that it’s not as bad as some claim. However, many have retorted that the Education City will always have better than average HSC scores, and the 2022 results are a big step down from the 25 distinguished achievers and over half of all local students scoring in the two top bands in 2016, the last year before the merger was announced.

“I support the efforts of teachers at Armidale Secondary College to deliver the best quality secondary education to students before and after this transition, with COVID to contend with, I know this has been a very difficult time,” Ms Langenberg said.

“A number of parents with students at the Armidale Secondary campus have raised issues with me concerning the impact on educational outcomes since the amalgamation”.

“Should I have the honour and privilege of being elected by the Northern Tablelands, I will seek to meet and consult with all key stakeholders about Armidale Secondary College.”

“After the consultations I will strongly advocate for what the community has decided is in the best interests of students, their families, teaching and educational staff, and the surrounding communities,” she said.

Emotions about the forced merger of the two high schools have been triggered in recent days by the announcement by Adam Marshall regarding the merger of Moree’s two high school sites into a single campus with a new uniform and the similar new name of Moree Secondary College.

Research by KORE Communication Strategy Research (the parent company of the New England Times) conducted in November 2021 found that 58% of Armidale people disagreed with the merger of the two high schools and 48% want the Duval High campus redeveloped and re-opened as a high school.

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