Fortitude Valley State School P&C President Anthony Holcroft outside the newly-renovated school. Credit: Steven Riggall.
President of the Fortitude Valley State School (FVSS) Parents and Citizens group (P&C) Anthony Holcroft is a somewhat reluctant leader.
Taking over the reigns of the P&C only a couple of months ago, Mr Holcroft has been thrust into the role of helping lead a community campaign to stop the possible closure of the school.
While committed to the schools’ future, Mr Holcroft admits he is uncertain he would have taken on the role if he had known the closure was going to be announced.
But he isn’t the only one unsure how to proceed.
Since the closure of the school was proposed in early May, the P&C has been struggling to work out how to elicit support from the wider public and pressure Queensland Education Minister John Paul Langbroek to keep their school open.
“Because I’m the President of the P&C I’m not really a political activist, so we were a bit slow in taking up the political campaign,” Mr Holcroft said.
One of the first steps the group took was to set up a Facebook page, which has so far attracted over 600 likes.
The group has undertaken a number of other initiatives, including a public meeting with Brisbane Central MP Robert Cavallucci, where parents came to voice their concerns.
Many parents questioned whether the state government had already signed a deal with a developer to sell the land. One commented: “you can fight the ‘dark enemy’ but you can never see it coming”.
Mr Cavallucci denied the state government is selling the land, saying nobody would dispute the land is worth “a hell of a lot of money”, but there has been no valuation of the school.
Two reasons the Department of Education, Training and Employment has given the P&C for FVSS’s closure is its small number of students and its relatively narrow curriculum.
But given its growth and pressures faced by local schools, Mr Holcroft questions the need for its closure.
“We have room on our school oval – because we’ve got an over-sized oval – to expand, the other schools don’t even have room to expand,” Mr Holcroft said.
Despite being proposed for closure, renovations continue on the building, with classrooms being re-carpeted and walls re-painted.
Recently the P&C started a letterbox campaign in the area and intends to start doorknocking as well.
“We haven’t really advertised this school,” Mr Holcroft said.
“Most other schools have fetes and fairs, but we never have because we never needed to, which has allowed people in the areas to not notice us and that’s caused the stalemate in our enrolments.”
But as Mr Holcroft and others are quick to point out, the school’s numbers have recently been increasing.
In three years the number of students has more than doubled, from 24 in 2010 to 53 this year, while enrolments are expected to increase 30 per cent a year until the school reaches its capacity in 2015-16.
Nearby schools Brisbane Central, New Farm and Wilston are close to capacity, while Ascot and Kelvin Grove are over capacity.
Because of the enrolment squeeze in Brisbane urban area, the P&C has found easy allies in neighbouring P&Cs.
“We’ve linked up with Brisbane Central State School and New Farm (State School) because they feel threatened by the closure of our school, because where are the students going to go?” Mr Holcroft said.
Right now the P&C is trying to leverage that support to gain signatures to petition against the school’s closure.
They are also taking advice from outsiders, something Mr Holcroft admits they have been slow to react to.
“We have to think about the people who are bringing the support and what they actually stand for, are they here to support the school or are they here to promote themselves and their own organisations?” Mr Holcroft said.
“We were just concentrating on just the people who were affected by it, but it looks like you have to take it out further and get more signatures on the petition.”
Mr Holcroft said the realisation has forced them to open up, be “more proactive” and “see the bigger picture”.
To meet growing demand in the south-east, the Queensland Government intends to build ten new schools – all of them in outer suburban areas – while closing nine it sees as unviable.
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