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Primary kids get a higher education as 10-storey school in the sky opens in CBD

Stiff leather shoes, an unworn blazer and a belly full of butterflys.

It’s the first day of school for five-year-old Amali Melville and day one for Victoria’s only vertical CBD school.

On Tuesday, Haileybury College will open the doors to its new, high-rise school on the north-west corner of King and Jeffcott streets.

The 10-storey building, for students from kindergarten to year 9, includes an indoor running track, a cafeteria open to the public and a rooftop terrace where kicking a ball over the school fence will never be so testing.

Amali, who started at the school’s early learning centre a few months ago, has had time to adjust to the flashy school in the sky.

And in a few years, after several school visits to the nearby National Gallery of Victoria, the city’s museums, and a squillion trips to Flagstaff Gardens next door, she will know the city like the back of her hand.

It will be totally different to the childhood of her parents.

Her father, Jamie, grew up in Bundaberg, a Queensland country town, while her mother Belinda Barlow, is from the outskirts of the Yarra Valley – a childhood she describes as “spacious, green and open”.

Ms Barlow, a retail consultant from Port Melbourne, says her daughter will be among a new generation of Melburnians born and raised in or around the CBD.

“The city is not just for ‘double income no kids’ couples … it really feels like the city caters to families now,” she said. “It’s not just a young person’s life anymore.”

“The cafe culture, the art scene, it feels like Melbourne has so much to offer and I don’t think that children should be exempt from that … they don’t have to get on a bus to travel for an hour to immerse themselves in our city culture.”

Ms Barlow’s children are among 230 students enrolled to attend the city school this year.

Haileybury College principal Derek Scott says the CBD site, the school’s fifth campus with room for 774 students, is fulfilling a demand for education in the inner city.

According to City of Melbourne data, the number of zero to four-year-olds in the CBD will jump from 867 to 2195 by 2026. The number of children aged five to 14 will leap from 532 to 3048.

Spotting the potential, two years ago the school bought an old NAB call centre overlooking the Flagstaff gardens for $52 million.

“We were looking at the growth of Melbourne, at the population increase of families in the city and the zero to four age group in Docklands, and thought that there was a lack of schools in the inner-west and out through South Melbourne,” Mr Scott said.

“Our research confirmed that there was a great need for new schools in the inner-city suburbs and the CBD region of Melbourne … and I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents about the challenges to find a school in the inner city.”

The CBD is also a popular area for international students, who will constitute 10 per cent of students in the senior school year levels from next year.

The opening comes months after the Victorian Government announced it would build four new mostly primary inner-city schools, after relentless lobbying from inner-city parents.

The new Haileybury campus joins a slew of new private schools opening this year, with the Independent Schools Victorian announcing seven new or expanded schools.

The Government is opening 10 new state schools this year.


Originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald

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