UP TO 1000 students from Sunbury College walked out on strike yesterday afternoon - protesting over a proposed merger with Sunbury Downs Secondary College that could take place as early as next year.
The two secondary schools, which are a few kilometres apart, could become one, with Sunbury College to become the junior campus for year 7-9 students and Sunbury Downs the senior campus for years 10-12.
If the merger went ahead, the school would become one of the largest secondary schools in Melbourne's north-west.
Both school councils, made up of parents, teachers and students, will consider the proposal at meetings next Thursday.
Sunbury College principal Peter Hendrickson said almost 200 staff were briefed on Monday night. Yesterday the word was out and up to 1000 students walked out of their classrooms in protest at 2pm, congregating for about half an hour on the school oval.
Year 10 Sunbury College student Erin Thompson said students were angry, particularly senior students who would have to move campus to complete their schooling.
"It's caused a massive uproar," she said. "It's mainly caused outrage with the year 11s because they are going to have to shift for just one year of school."
She said moving campuses would add up to 50 minutes to her walk to and from school and reduce her study time.
She said if the merger went ahead, she would consider moving to Footscray City College.
Mr Hendrickson said the proposal was designed to benefit both schools, improve retention rates and boost subject choices. He said subject choices at Sunbury Downs were limited due to a smaller student population of 520, while Sunbury College's larger student body of 1410 students had insufficient technology facilities, with students unable to do VET and technology subjects.
"It's really about providing a better education for kids in Sunbury," he said. "It's about subject choices but it's also about the size of the school, because when you've got 1400 kids you still have the same library, canteen and gym, so facilities get a bit stretched."
Australian Education Union Victorian president Mary Bluett said the proposal should not be considered a foregone conclusion. She said a consultation process would begin, with union representatives on the planning committee.
"There will be no hatchet job, it should be an open and transparent process," she said.
■ More than 265 state school teachers will stop work today, disrupting about 18 schools in Melbourne's inner west as teachers continue their push for better pay and conditions. One school, Braybrook Primary School, will not open today.