JADE McCaig has lived in her Speers Point home for more than 35 years, but is considering selling the property for the sake of her two children’s public education.
The family live one block outside the catchment area for Biddabah Public School, where parents have been advised that out of zone enrolments, including younger siblings, will be limited from next year.
A department spokesperson said the school’s enrolment has grown from 423 in 2012 to 452 this year, which includes only 184 students from inside the zone.
“Local enrolments to Biddabah Public School have grown to the point where out of zone enrolments need to be reduced to ensure places continue to be available for local students,” the spokesperson said.
“Enrolment will be considered for out of zone sibling applications in exceptional circumstances.”
Ms McCaig said the decision had left her and partner Mark feeling “trapped”, knowing their 10 month old son Finn would be unlikely to be allowed to attend the same school as his kindergartener sister Niamh.
“We were told at her orientation late last year that siblings would be accepted,” Ms McCaig said. “We’re thinking maybe it’s easier to move, because our kids’ education is more important than four walls and a roof.”
The department spokesperson said parents were advised of the need for change last year, when it closed enrolments to all out of zone families except for younger siblings of pupils already at the school.
But parents dispute this. Parents and citizens committee president Melissa Aurisch said most parents only learned of the department’s stance last week.
She said this was even though Lake Macquarie West director of public schools Steve Harris told about 40 parents, some in tears, at a meeting on Wednesday that the department knew about the large number of out of zone enrolments as long as two years ago.
“There has been no communication all this time from the department to these affected families, they’ve allowed these children to enrol and failed to indicate what will be happening from next year,” Ms Aurisch said.
“The department has been grossly negligent in their mismanagement of this situation. They should not have left it up to the school to have the hard conversation.”
The department has not offered families the option of a staggered transition.
Ms Aurisch said out of zone families were considering enroling their multiple children at multiple schools; removing all their children and re-enrolling elsewhere; and selling their homes to buy inside the zone.