Despite the strong efforts of the parents and the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), Lalor North Primary School’s Greek Bilingual Programme will again be run on a two-classroom system in 2021 instead of the three-classroom system that was in place up to 2019.
In comments attributable to Lalor North Primary School principal Dave Williams but issued to Neos Kosmos by the Department of Education and Training, it was confirmed that the two classroom system would be retained this year.
“We are proud of the successful Greek bilingual program at Lalor North Primary School and there will be no changes to the program in 2021.
“All students involved in the Greek bilingual program will receive the support they need to thrive academically and developmentally. They will be supported by two dedicated Greek teachers, a Greek teacher seconded from the Greek Consulate and a Greek Bilingual Multicultural Aide.”
This decision was made despite hard lobbying by the community for the reintroduction of a three-classroom system in 2021 that the parents say will ensure the future success of the Greek Bilingual Program at Lalor North Primary School.
The community has lobbied Victorian Education minister James Merlino and state members of parliament Lily D’Ambrosio (Mill Park) and Bromwyn Halfpenny (Thomastown) to retain the programme in its earlier three-classroom format which they say is key to attracting more Greeks to enroll their children into the 44-year-old progamme.
This year, because of a fall in numbers, the school introduced a two-classroom programme, Prep to Grade 2 in one classrrom, and Grades 3 to 6 in the other classroom. Under the three-classroom system the Prep and Grade One were joined in one class with Grades 2 to 4 in the next class and the final class consisted of Grades 5 and 6 learners.
The Greek parents have argued over the year that the two-classroom system undermined the success of the programme and will make it harder to attract more learners in future.
Under the programme, Greek along with English form the languages of instruction – with Maths being taught in Greek.
Parent Chris Pappas who has three children enrolled in the programme – his eldest finished this year – said that while numbers to the programme had fallen, the implementation of the two-classroom programme this year had already turned away a number of Greek parents.
He said that mixing Grades 3 and 4 with Grades 5 and 6 created problems for teachers and students with the younger children falling behind in their work.
“There are problems with the time table and there are gaps in teaching time to set up work for the various groups,” said Mr Pappas.
He had added that the COVID-19 lockdowns had helped the children because while they were at home the parents could ensure that the work was done and kept up to date.
COVID-19, however, also frustrated efforts by the community to promote the programme and attract more learners.
Education Convener and the vice-president of the Greek Community of Melbourne Theo Markos conceded that the number of students in the programme were down this year but added that if the programme was to regain learner numbers, it would need a return to the three-classroom system.
He said that $15,000 that had been allocated by state government to promote the programme and grow enrolments, while generous, would not have the desired effect of drawing more parents while the two-classroom system remained in place for 2021.
“We are asking for the extra teacher so that the programme can meet both the social and educational needs of the students. And COVID-19 did not do us any favours this year in our efforts to increase the numbers (of learners),” said Mr Markos.
“We are asking for (the department) to allocate funds specifically for and extra teacher and give us a year to promote the programme.”