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Dee Why Public School

Dee Why Public School is a unique and inspiring primary school in my electorate of Wakehurst. It is led by an exceptional principal in Mark Chaffer, who is a dedicated, effective and charismatic leader. With 69 per cent of the students coming from non-English speaking backgrounds across 38 different cultural groups, the school is unusually multicultural for the northern beaches.

Dee Why Public School has experienced the most rapid growth of any school in the Wakehurst electorate, with a 166 per cent increase in student numbers since 2011. The catchment area for the school is predominantly medium‑ and high‑density apartments, and it continues to grow today. In this context, I am pleased to recognise Dee Why Public School and thank all the staff for the harmonious, inclusive and rewarding learning environment that they provide to all the Dee Why kids. I particularly express my support for calls from the Dee Why Public School community for an additional landscaped playground area for use by the school and the local community.

The school site spans both sides of the busy Fisher Road. The western side of the road includes a large vacant grassy area that is already temporarily used by the kids on and off but could be significantly improved to make the most of the land for the children's use. Through a combination of grant money, fundraising and school contributions, an initial playground redevelopment for the site is at an advanced stage of planning and will be built, which is great. However, this initial investment will deliver barely half of the school community's vision for the site, so I am championing stage two of this project: An additional $150,000 would allow installation of multipurpose play courts, additional landscaping and seating.

Community support for this project came through loud and clear in the Wakehurst schools survey that I ran last year. I was very pleased to have so many responses from parents and staff at Dee Why Public School in particular. I thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey. By far, the top request for that school was for more outdoor play facilities and seating to better utilise the vacant area on the western side of Fisher Road. One parent provided this comment:

It would be great to see more outdoor play area for the children of Dee Why Public School. As the school has grown in numbers the outdoor areas are shrinking! ... The current state of the area, with no green spaces and a reliance on 15 demountable classrooms, does not provide an adequate or sustainable environment for our community and especially our children.

Furthermore, there is an unused site across the road that presents a valuable opportunity for development. It could be transformed into a multifunctional space that benefits both our educational needs and the overall quality of life in Dee Why.

I am particularly passionate about this project because of its potential broader public benefit for families living in Dee Why. The site would be ideal for use by the community on weekends and school holidays under the Share Our Space program—an excellent initiative of the former Government, and local member Rob Stokes in particular, that opened up public schools and assets for use by the public for recreation on weekends and during school holidays. The site is highly visible, right on the main road and fenced. I am sure it would quickly attract kids, parents and grandparents as a standalone drawcard park. It is right across from the highly used PCYC.

With many now raising families in apartments, access to high-amenity outdoor spaces that are exciting and inspiring to kids is more important than ever. Even a cursory review of the considerable research on the topic reveals the deep, enduring benefits for child development of playing outside in nature. The physical, psychological, emotional, cognitive and social benefits of outdoor play are established beyond doubt. Outdoor play has been shown to improve communication, risk management, decision-making and negotiation skills. Mr Speaker, it sounds like we need to spend time on the monkey bars! I jest, but providing greater access to quality green spaces for children to get them away from their screens and outside is seriously important.

My office recently met with the principal to learn more about the project, and I have written to the Minister for Education and Early Learning to explain the potential and ask that a funding allocation be considered for this year's budget. I am committed to helping to bring Dee Why Public School's full vision for an engaging, well‑designed playground on the Fisher Road site to fruition. All we need is for the Government to match the hard‑earned funds raised by parents and thus deliver stage two.

14 March 2024, 18:22

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