Back in 1993 I was given the task of researching the way reading was taught K-12 in the southern Sydney region of Botany. My report is available in the National Library. Among the schools I visited over a three month period was La Perouse Public School. La Perouse is on the north side of Botany Bay and is home to a famous Indigenous community. At the time I was visiting there was excellent work being done there and the school appeared to be thriving.
But since then 25 years have gone by! I hardly believe that! In today’s Sydney Morning Herald there is a story of decline and renewal at the school.
In one part of La Perouse, there is an Aboriginal mission. In another, the fancy new apartments of Little Bay. And in the middle there is a school where, for many years, neither community wanted to send its kids.
In its heyday, La Perouse Public taught 300 students. Yet when Matt Jackman arrived almost two years ago there were about 24 kids, seven empty classrooms and a reputation that made parents scramble for out-of-area schools.
He could have let the school struggle on, a victim of the area’s gentrification and years of bad press. Instead, Mr Jackman hatched a plan to win over the trust of two very different communities. And his efforts have been rewarded: in 2019, La Perouse’s numbers will almost double.
That conclusion is good to hear, but I wonder what went on in the 25 years since I was last there.