Inner Sydney High, on the site of the former Cleveland Street High, was one of seven new and 17 upgraded public schools to open for term one. They include the $325 million primary and high school complex in Parramatta.
Community groups have been campaigning for a school in the inner city since 2012, arguing there was a shortage of public secondary school options for an area that demographers wrongly assumed couples would abandon for the suburbs once they had children.
“It started with a dinner party overlooking [selective schools] Sydney Boys and Sydney Girls,” said Community for Location Options for Secondary Education (CLOSE) campaigner Skye Molyneux.
“There was an epiphany when we realised we had kids approaching high school with nowhere to go, even though there were two high schools in spitting distance. I got emotional [today, when the school opened]. There was this huge sense of achievement, that we’d done it.”
While the school’s zone reaches north to Millers Point, most of those attending Inner Sydney High are from suburbs to the south of the catchment, such as Surry Hills and Redfern. Some are also out-of-area enrolments.
Oscar’s mother, Sarah Oquist, said she chose the school for its facilities, its enthusiastic staff, and the fact that, while many of the region’s public schools have specialties – such as selective or performing arts streams – Inner Sydney High was a genuinely comprehensive school.
“I feel they are investing in a really good quality, comprehensive, government school,” she said. “Our son … does a bit of sport, music, drama, and they’re going to offer everything.”
Principal Robyn Matthews, who has been hiring and planning for 12 months, said the first day was a success.
“It was really great,” she said. “All the students looked fantastic in their uniform, all the parents were excited, the building looks amazing. It’s everything we have been working towards.”
Enrolments in Inner Sydney High School will be staged, with a new class of year seven students beginning every year until it reaches its capacity of 1200. Oscar’s year will be the first to sit the HSC in 2025.
Even though the school has opened, alumni of the original school on the site, Cleveland St High, are campaigning for its original name to be reinstated.
They wrote a a letter to NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell arguing ‘Clevo’ has a “magnificent history and contribution to public education … that should not be dismissed, severed and effectively redacted by changing its name”.
CLOSE members are continuing to campaign for new public schools, and have turned their attention to a new high school in the eastern suburbs.
Jordan Baker is Education Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald