Western Australia’s biggest – and one of its best-performing – public schools is set to receive an $80 million makeover, including a new science block, a redeveloped library and redeveloped maths and administration buildings.
In announcing the upgrade recently, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett said Willetton Senior High School will get $32.5 million in next year’s state budget to fund the first stage of the works.
With 1,736 students enrolled in semester one this year, the school, which last year became an Independent Public School, is the biggest in the state.
The school is also recognised as one of the state’s best, featuring regularly in the annual list of the top 20 schools based on results in WA Certificate of Education (WACE) courses. Last year, it was named WA Secondary School of the Year.
Barnett notes that Willetton was built in the 1970s and says it needs ‘refreshing’. He says the government is looking at a long-term plan for the school.
“Significant areas of the school need refreshing so that the increasing number of students learning here can benefit from contemporary learning facilities,” he says.
Barnett says stage one of the upgrade, to be completed by 2015, will include the construction of a new science block complete with up-to-date technology and equipment, more laboratories and a dedicated planning area for staff. The first stage will also provide permanent classrooms, relieving the need for portables.
Beyond that, the Premier says the state will begin to look at stage two facilities with a view to redeveloping the current library, mathematics and administration buildings.
Education Minister Liz Constable says the upgrade is timely as year 7 will become the first year of secondary education from 2015 onward.
“Teachers and students have been doing a wonderful job in these ageing facilities,” Constable says. “It is essential all students have the best possible environment in which to learn.”
She stresses, however, that the building program will consider the needs of current staff and students and will be planned to minimise disruption to the current school program.
Barnett says that while $80 million is a strong estimate of the amount the state is looking to spend on the upgrade, overall project costs are yet to be finalised.
Construction on the first stage is expected to begin next year, with an architect set to be appointed shortly.