Walking into the Bourke Street School the sense of community is inescapable, but it wasn’t so long ago that this school community was under threat.
Earlier this decade the school had only 70 students and was facing the threat of closure. But then something happened – new families moved into Surry Hills and school numbers took off, reaching over 400 today.
And with the new kids, came rapid change. After recently being allocated new land and an accompanying building to meet the growing demand of the school, many felt that the facilities did not meet the needs of the children.
Bourke Street Public School Principal Jason Goode says: “The playground was redesigned in terms of flattening, but there wasn’t much equipment and consequently there wasn’t much engagement from the students, so they were very much sitting there stagnant.”
The school’s P&C funded the project by holding a fete in 2018, which funded the new playground. The new Bourke Street Public School playground was also built, painted and maintained by a dedicated team of parents.
Principal Jason Goode says: “We’re so lucky that we have a very engaged community of parents, they were so proactive in steering this.”
Local artist Gemma Smith is both a neighbour and a parent of Bourke Street Public School. She contributed to the new space by donating an artwork based on her most recent MCA exhibition of her ‘Tangle Paintings’.
The paintings create an interesting and puzzling visual stimulus for students. “When I was making the work for the MCA I found that kids had a really lovely response to it… When Bourke St asked me if I would like to make a painting, I thought this would be a great idea for this work as well,” says Gemma.
Like many parents, Gemma contributed her time and effort to the project out of a love for both the school and its community.
“I think the school community is a really special place… It’s an unbelievably generous and supportive community.”
Architect Sacha Coles also helped to develop the new space. Specialising in outdoor spaces and children’s play areas Sacha felt compelled to do his part for the school, based on a similar sense of community.
“There are some amazingly capable and enthusiastic people in this community and its very diverse… The community is incredibly giving and once you start to involve yourself and give your time for free in these ways, then I think that everyone comes along and does their own version of that.”
Students have been very appreciative of their parents hard work, and have welcomed the new playground with open arms.
Parent Linda Ryan has said that her child Alex has responded incredibly well to the new space. Linda says: “He loves it. He’s been here for several incantations of playgrounds… He thinks it’s wonderful.”
Goode says: “The kids particularly have grown in a sense of pride, there’s a new sense of loving their school space.”
On the efforts of the parents the school’s principal Jason Goode is beyond thankful.
“They work so strongly and in partnership with us. If they didn’t things like this it wouldn’t happen.”