At a time when many of Melbourne’s public secondary schools are reporting unprecedented demand, one school in the inner-north has enough spare room to house hundreds more students.
Collingwood College’s years 7 to 12 campus currently has only 248 students enrolled but has capacity for another 802.
The shortfall goes against the trend of recent reports that suggest many secondary schools are struggling to cope with enrolments.
Glen Waverley, Ringwood and McKinnon secondary colleges have reported huge growth in demand, with hundreds of students knocked back this year.
At Collingwood, enrolments are at their second lowest since 2006; at its peak, in 2003, 345 students went to the school, representing a 28 per cent drop. This is despite the fact the suburb’s population increased 24.7 per cent between 2001 and 2011.
The excess capacity was revealed in a Yarra City Council report into government schools, following a long-time campaign from Richmond parents for a new school to be built to meet expected demand.
Richmond High School Choices convenor Justin Naylor said Collingwood College may be a good option for some students and parents, but it wasn’t suitable for everyone.
“If a school’s good enough, then people will make the effort to go there,” he said.
He said the report was only concerned with numbers and failed to address options, such as “cost-effective” private schools.
Collingwood College is known for its multicultural student population.
It is internationally accredited and was one of the first Victorian schools to have a Stephanie Alexander kitchen garden.
According to 2012 NAPLAN tests, years 7 and 9 students performed either close to other schools’ average or below average in reading, writing, spelling, numeracy and grammar and punctuation.
In VCE, the average subject score is 27, with the school ranked 366 out of 514 in the state.
Monash University’s education faculty deputy dean, Deb Corrigan, said standardised tests didn’t provide a fair representation.
“A lot of parents think NAPLAN is a measure of quality and it isn’t – it provides a limited view of how some students are performing at one point of time.”
Collingwood College did not respond to requests for comment.