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Education - South Hobart Primary School

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tags: Schools, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, I make representation on behalf of the students, parents and teacher at South Hobart Primary School. As you well know, because the Greens have raised this in parliament, the school has lost its library. Kinder students are sharing classrooms and having to spend hours outside with adequate shelter in the middle of winter. This year there's no apparent funding in the Budget for either the library or any expansion of South Hobart Primary School. As you would be aware, I hope, the impact of this on students and teacher has been raised by the school association for three years now and they are not feeling optimistic, having looked at your Budget.

Ms COURTNEY - Thank you, Ms O'Connor, and I appreciate your advocacy for the school. With regards to the Capital Investment Program, as you are no doubt aware, there's a prioritisation around schools and I understand that there are schools with need. We have a track record of delivering in the South Hobart Primary School. There were $3.6 million of upgrades in 2017 to provide additional learning areas and $600 000 for civil works in 2020-21. We recognise that we need more learning areas at the school because of the growth in that catchment. That's why there was the development of a long-term master plan for the school, with a community consultation process undertaken earlier this year. An architect was engaged in the development of that. This included community consultation, an online survey and a workplace. It was very informed by the local community. This will now provide us with the opportunity to look at how we can fund that.

We need to look at a process for prioritisation. The Government now has significantly more investment in the capital investment program than was in the last budget before we came to Government. I believe it's increased four-fold since that time.

We recognise the importance of renewing our school facilities. We recognise for a range of reasons, including capacity constraints, reducing temporary learning spaces, bathrooms and other aspects that we need to continue to invest. I thank the school community for its advocacy. They have communicated their needs with me and with the department.

As we move towards future budgets we will be looking at how we can continue to roll out the funding that's needed. I know, Ms O'Connor, you joined me recently at the Lansdowne Crescent school development.

Ms O'CONNOR - Pure joy.

Ms COURTNEY - It was a delight wasn't it? That was just beautiful. We can see the positive impact it makes on the school community, and in particular, students. To see students so excited about their facilities was just such a joyful experience. It also demonstrates why these infrastructure investments are so important, which is why we put more money into them. We need a prioritisation process, but I can assure the community we recognise the need.

Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, minister. The concern within the school association and the school community generally is that there's been a master plan process initiated without funding attached to it. I'm certain that what they want to hear - because they are really worried about overcrowding in classrooms, kids without enough shelter and no library - is a commitment from the Government that when they look at the budget next year, it may be different for their rapidly growing school. I know it's one of 20 or so priority one schools on the capital works list, but it is a rapidly growing school and it's been asking for help for more than three years.

Ms COURTNEY - Ms O'Connor, I recognise that. I'm confident, as the department looks to the prioritisation of funding to both future budgets and funding that we have there, that they will consider all of these matters very carefully. I accept that there is need. That is why the Government has committed so much additional funding to capital works. We need to continue to work with communities to progress those plans. The work has been comprehensive. An important step in progressing funding is having that planning in place.

Ms O'CONNOR - The question is about a time frame for priority one listed schools, of which South Hobart Primary School is one. I know it's a juggling act but how do you prioritise the capital works needs of schools that all have an argument for CAPEX funding to provide better learning spaces for their children? The South Hobart Primary School parents have asked me to ask the Government in this forum to commit to a time frame for when all priority one listed schools will receive the funding they need for adequate facilities.

Ms COURTNEY - I'm happy for the department to provide detail on their work on the prioritisation list. It would help understanding. I am not in a position to make a commitment on future budgets but I'll continue to work with the department on how we can support school communities as we roll out this infrastructure funding. Each proposal is unique and so it's difficult to use a blanket approach to all the priority ones. Some of them are substantial sums of money and some of them are lesser depending on the need. I'll ask the secretary to talk more about that.

Mr BULLARD - Regarding that list, we are moving from a process that was a year-on-year understanding of who has the greatest need within that 12-month process. It's strongly advocated by schools. I support the minister saying that's great when schools and school communities get on board, but from 2020 we've implemented an asset management system whereby site assessments are done on every school. It is evidence-based with end-of-life assessments made around infrastructure and supports that are required at that school.

That provides us with the opportunity to plan much longer term. You know what our priority one list looks like. Which are the really pointy end sites within a particular year? We want to provide upgrades and maintenance on a rolling basis so that we don't get to that point.

At South Hobart it's demographic change which has caused the big influx of students. They stick to rules around out-of-area enrolments. They're good corporate players. Ms Ogilvie knows that it went from zero to hero in a very short period of time.

Ms O'CONNOR - In five years it's increased its school population by 32 per cent.

Mr BULLARD - From in-area enrolments. How that's prioritised is that it goes through the Budget process. We need to make sure that through that Budget process there's the best evidence available to make informed decisions and decisions that can look to three and five years not just to next year.

Ms O'CONNOR - Okay. Thank you. I want to go back to South Hobart Primary School and understand a bit more about how you prioritise priority 1 capital expenditure. In the Budget papers three primary schools were approved for major new school redevelopment funding and those three schools, when you look at their enrolments from 2015 to 20 on the My School website, Cambridge Primary School had an increase in student enrolments of 14 per cent; Lauderdale Primary School 15 per cent; Montello Primary School 17 per cent; but over the same period South Hobart had an increase of 32 per cent.

How does the department run that metric over what to prioritise off the priority 1 list, particularly when you've got a school like South Hobart, which as we heard from Mr Bullard is growing, the demographics are changed, all the students who are there are from in area, some people who live in South Hobart can't send their kids to that school? Why would it be that a school that has had an increase in population from 2015 by around a third again not be prioritised, given they've lost their library and had kids crammed into the one classroom?

Ms COURTNEY - I'm happy for the secretary to provide more detail about the work of prioritisation. From my perspective while the metric of increase in numbers of students is one metric, it's not the only metric. There's a range of other things that we need to look at, such as the suitability of facilities, the state of facilities where their facilities are actually urging on dangerous for children as well, particularly around some of the toilet blocks and associated facilities. Some of them are definitely high priorities.

The secretary also outlined in his previous answer the way that - as a department they're trying to look not just at - while we need to obviously have a process to manage those priority 1 schools, which I'll get the secretary to comment on, we also have a broader body of work to look at a more strategic view of how we look at those longer term ones because I don't think it's a good way of managing capital to simply wait until a school escalates in need so much that the situation gets difficult. We need to look at it more from a long term perspective, how we can look at that strategically and also get value for money on the full length of when the benefits of those investments will be made. Perhaps the secretary can provide some further information.

Mr BULLARD - Thank you, minister. Just one thing, I'd be really concerned if there was someone who lived in South Hobart who wasn't enrolled or couldn't enrol because the way that the intake areas work, you have a right to attend your local school and a place needs to be provided for you.

Ms O'CONNOR - It's what I've heard from a parent.

Mr BULLARD - And I accept that feedback. It's of concern. In terms of Cambridge, Lauderdale and South Hobart, you've raised one metric which is absolutely a valid one, around growth, but we also look at condition and we also look at capacity. So, each of those sites has a different capacity. Each of those sites has a different condition and of course, really what we're doing is prioritising priority 1. It is a very difficult job and we need to look at each of those metrics.

I can assure you that Cambridge and Lauderdale are under considerable pressure for the same reason as South Hobart. The Beach is coming in and the enrolments have gone through the roof, I think. From memory they're running five kindergartens at Lauderdale Primary at the moment. So, it is great I have to say, that people are electing to send their children to public education. That is to be celebrated. We just have to make sure we are providing the support to those schools.