McKinnon Secondary College discovers downside of being popular school

Date: June 9, 2015 – 6:49AM

Henrietta Cook, Education Reporter

Development is rampant in McKinnon. Ben Ryde orchestrated the sale of his home and those of three of his neighbours to a developer.

Development is rampant in McKinnon. Ben Ryde orchestrated the sale of his home and those of three of his neighbours to a developer.

Has one of Victoria’s most sought-after state schools become a victim of its own success?

McKinnon Secondary College principal Pitsa​ Binnion​ said an explosion of high-density “monstrosities” in the school’s coveted zone has put huge pressure on the community.

She criticised developers for demolishing single-storey homes and replacing them with 80-unit apartments so more families could secure places at the high-performing school.

“Where once upon a time it used to be one house with two or three children, you will now have three units with eight children. Everybody is subdividing and you are seeing a change in the face of the little McKinnon suburb that once was.”

She urged council to slow down on the approval of new apartments in the area.

While the school’s zone has not changed dramatically for more than two decades, its population has grown from 1100 to 1950 students.

This has coincided with a steady improvement in the school’s VCE performance, with senior students achieving 233 scores of “40 plus” in individual subjects last year.

“How big can the school become? We need to really maintain the integrity of the school.” Ms Binnion said the zone was not the problem, but rather the increasing density of the housing within it. Heavy traffic is another unintended consequence of the school’s popularity. Just last week, during the chaos of the afternoon pick-up, a student was rushed to hospital after he was hit by a car driven by a parent at the school.

The school’s infrastructure is also under pressure, with 32 portables now dotting the grounds.

Glen Eira Mayor Jim Magee – who is also a parent at the school and on its council – said the former government’s new residential planning zones had made the area more attractive to developers.

He said the solution was to build the school upwards, and within the next decade he expected it would accommodate 4000 students. “It’s a victim of its own success.”

The Andrews government has promised the school $9 million for a new multi-storey building with classrooms.

Bentleigh MP Nick Staikos said new laws introduced into parliament by Labor would “democratise VCAT” to ensure the tribunal took into account the volume of objections to a proposed development. This could halt unpopular developments in the area. He reminded parents that there were other fantastic state schools in the area, including Bentleigh, Brighton and Cheltenham Secondary College.

“But I don’t blame people for wanting to send their children to McKinnon.”