Parents Petition to Retain QASMT in Toowong in New Primary School Debate

Parents of students attending Queensland Academy for Science (QASMT) in Toowong do not support the proposal to merge with and move the school to Coorparoo Secondary College, amidst the search for an ideal location to build a new primary school in Brisbane’s west.

Education Queensland is considering this option for its space versus the student population. If QASMT moves to Coorparoo, the Toowong site would be refitted and redeveloped to accommodate the new primary school. Some 1,500 students in QASMT whilst fewer than 400 students in Coorparoo Secondary College will be affected by this merger.

But QASMT P and C President Winand D’Souza said in the radio program 4BC said that they “want to keep it where it is” as the move and merger will not be beneficial to most of the students. 

Mr D’Souza said that the State Government has just spent $33 million of ratepayers’ money on QASMT’s expansion and upgrades with top-notch and state-of-the-art science and math facilities. The improvements have sealed the school’s reputation as the “STEM flagship state school specifically for high performing Queensland students.”

“It is important not to disrupt what we’re trying to do [for the kids] by keeping the school where it is.”

Photo Credit: Google Maps
Photo Credit: Google Maps

Following the community meeting on 15 March 2021, Education Queensland representative Helen Kenworthy reiterated the need for a new primary school in the westside to address the overcapacity in Indooroopilly State School and Ironside State School. However, the parents said QASMT will not be a good location for families with kids going to these two schools. 

This isn’t the first instance QASMT’s move and the merger has been brought to the table. A councillor also suggested merging the school with the University of Queensland but the parents held their ground and insisted that the STEM-focused school has to remain in Toowong. 

There were also suggestions to build the school at the former Toowong Bowls Club on Gailey Road in Taringa but Ms Kenworthy said there could be some restrictions on the use of the land as it was a gift to the community from the Perrin family. 

Meanwhile, Mr D’Souza opened a signature campaign addressing the parliament to retain QASMT in its current location. The petition has drawn over 3,500 signatures as of press time and will remain open until 18 April 2021. 

300-Year-Old Toowong Tree Saved From Development

A 300-year-old grey ironbark tree in Toowong has been saved despite plans to remove it to make way for the Queensland Academy For Science, Mathematics and Technology’s expansion.

Conservation groups such as the Save Toowong Creek have been battling to save the tree since last year.    

“Estimated to be easily over 300 years old, this tree has been a landmark for native wildlife and a home tree for countless amounts of bird species for centuries,” Save Toowong Creek wrote in a Facebook post.

Aboriginal activist Sam Watson added that the area was important to the Turrbal as it was connected to Mt Coot-tha by ancient “song lines.”

The 30-metre hardwood tree has an Aboriginal scar and is considered a rare remnant brush in Toowong Creek.

Education Minister Grace Grace said her department had worked with the Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships and the Turrbal people to ensure the expansion could still be delivered while respecting the cultural and environmental sensitivities of the site.

The Education Department proposed to adjust the location of the building in order to avoid impacts on the tree and the Turrbal people.

The building will now be moved 11.4-m away from the grey ironbark tree, the minimum distance needed to protect its root zone.

Construction of QAMT’s three-storey building is underway in order to accommodate students from Year 7-10. The $36 million expansion includes the construction of the academy’s STEM hub and Northern Learning Centre.

Toowong’s QASMT Tops 2018 OP/IBD School Ranking

Once IB results were converted to their OP 1-5 equivalents, it became clear that Toowong’s Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology clearly outperformed all other schools in Queensland in the 2018 OP/IBD School Ranking, the Better Education website revealed.

QASMT has an OP 1-5 equivalent score of 65 percent, besting its equally impressive 2017 score of 63.8 percent, according to the OP/IBD school ranking by Better Education.

In fact, it bested Brisbane Grammar School, which took the third place with an OP 1-5 score of 51.4 percent. Queensland Academy of Health Sciences ranked second with an OP 1-5 equivalent score of 57.8 percent.

The ranking, in a way, recognized QASMT students’ academic achievement in 2018, which is otherwise overshadowed by the OP results ranking.

QASMT, a select entry school currently caters to Year 10 to 12 students, with planned expansion scheduled to commence by the start of 2019 school year, which will accommodate Year 7 students. The expansion meant to accommodate Years 8 to 9 students, on the other hand, is scheduled to be completed for the 2020 school year.

Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology expansion project
Video Credit: Queensland Department of Education / YouTube

Introduced in 1992, OP or Overall Position, is the statewide rank based on a student’s overall achievement in Authority subjects and is used for tertiary entrance purposes. OP measures a student’s performance as compared to other OP-eligible students, on a scale from 1 to 25 with 1 as the highest and 25 as the lowest.

The International Baccalaureate is an internationally recognized pre-university course for secondary students aged between 16 and 19. The International Baccalaureate or IB, which started in 1968 in Switzerland, is an inquiry-based style of learning, which teaches students to think critically and independently to help them be more adaptable to change with a global perspective.

The International Baccalaureate program is divided into: Primary Years Program or PYP for ages 3-12; Middle Years Program or MYP for ages 11-16; Diploma Program or DP for ages 16-19; and Career-related Program or CP for ages 16-19.

QASMT Expansion Works in Toowong Raises Environmental Concerns

Queensland Academy for Science, Mathematics and Technology – The ongoing QASMT expansion works are currently raising ecological issues for Toowong Creek.

The QASMT expansion is part of the government’s Building Future Schools Fund which aims to deliver new and innovative education infrastructure solutions for growing communities.

For QASMT in Toowong, the expansion’s main goal is to enable the school to accommodate up to 1,200 students by 2021.

QASMT Expansion

QASMT’s proposed new northern learning centre. Photo credit:

The expansion involves two stages. Stage 1 will be complete by the start of the 2019 school year to accommodate Year 7 students. This stage primarily involves the refurbishment of existing school infrastructure.

QASMT’s proposed new eastern STEM hub. Photo credit:

On the other hand, QASMT targets the completion of Stage 2 at the start of the 2020 school year to provide accommodation for Years 8 and 9 students. The final stage includes a new northern learning centre and a new eastern STEM hub.

Community Consultation

QASMT expansion’s site plan. Photo credit:

Following the Department of Education’s community consultation for the said expansion, they have considered the feedback from the community and incorporated them into the updated expansion plans.

Changes to the expansions include the following:

  • Reduction in the number of additional carparks on-site – additional carparks will be added under the Northern Learning Centre.
  • Removal of a proposed formal carpark accessed via Miskin Street.
  • New kiss and ride facility on Bywong Street to improve traffic flow and access to on-street parking.
  • The location of the Northern Learning Centre has been adjusted to move it further from Toowong Creek.
  • The Eastern STEM Building has been reduced in height to be the same height as the existing buildings.

Environmental Impact

Toowong Habitat Protection Group is one of the major opponents of the expansion. This is mainly due to the ecological impact of the development of new buildings on Toowong Creek.

The group has identified several issues of concern including the development’s effects on the surrounding vegetation and animals as well as the area’s traffic conditions.

Clearing of Multiple Trees

Trees marked for removal. Photo credit: Toowong Habitat Protection Group/Facebook

Furthermore, the habitat protection group says that the development will require clearing of 59 trees. Unfortunately, one of the trees that are subject for removal is approximately more than 300 years old.

Clearing of these trees will certainly affect multiple animal species in the area. Currently, the Toowong Creek, as well as its buffer zone, is a sensitive and significant ecological area. In fact, around seven threatened wildlife species including Tusked Frog, Powerful Owl, and Grey Headed Flying Fox inhabit the proposed building location.

The ring tailed possum is one of the endangered species that is at risk due to habitat clearing. Photo credit: Toowong Habitat Protection Group/Facebook

Loss of habitat is not the only issue that can affect these animals as noise and dust pollution during construction can also significantly affect wildlife behaviour. The group has also cited that “scientific publications/literature shows construction noise depletes frog numbers, reduces reproductive physiology, and induces the likelihood of epidemiologic disease”.

Whilst the group is supportive of the government’s investment in education, their efforts focus on minimising the impact of the new buildings on community and natural assets.

Should you be interested in joining the group’s effort in saving Toowong Creek, you may visit their page to learn more about what you can do to help.

Read more about QASMT Expansion.