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South Hobart Primary School - Library

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Tags: Education, State Budget

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Speaker, I want to warmly endorse Ms Finlay's contribution and also acknowledge the value of the arts in our culture and in nourishing our spirituality.

On a related issue, I want to talk about books and learning and libraries. What a joy libraries are. They are places of calm, of inquiry, they are enriching places where we deepen our knowledge and understanding. For children who are learning, libraries are invaluable. This brings me to the issue of the South Hobart Primary School's lack of a library.

Last year in Estimates, Dr Woodruff raised the issue of the South Hobart Primary School library and this matter has, regrettably, not been resolved. I also spoke to the minister about it at the time. In the last decade the South Hobart Primary School population has grown astronomically, from 243 students in 2010 to around 500 students this year. That is nearly doubled in size and that is because this once little school is a great school, and parents and students are voting with their feet. But that has put pressure on school infrastructure.

In November 2020 it was announced that the South Hobart Primary School library would be shut to accommodate two new classrooms for the ever-growing school population. The proposal was that the school library would be relocated to a shed in the car park and a book trolley would visit classrooms each week. The parents at South Hobart Primary School, as well as the students, were understandably upset. A total of 1217 parents signed a petition calling on the then Education minister to ensure the students did not lose their library, their place of reading and learning. We raised the matter with the former Education minister in November and December last year and we thought that it was being resolved.

Mr Rockliff assured us and the South Hobart parents that it was temporary and that the Government would begin a master plan to tackle the growing school population. Ultimately the South Hobart Primary School students lost their library and they do not have it back in this year's budget.

In March this year the master plan was circulated and South Hobart Primary School was put on the priority one list for infrastructure upgrades, including new classrooms. Despite that there was nothing for South Hobart Primary School in the state budget, nothing this year or in the forward Estimates. You can imagine how gutted the South Hobart school community and the students are about this.

What we know is that if work does begin on the master plan it will start sometime in the 2025-26 year at the earliest on the Budget papers. The South Hobart Primary School, as we know, has nearly doubled in a decade, the population pressure is there. There is a clear and pressing need to invest in the infrastructure of this beautiful growing school.

The South Hobart Primary School Association has expressed great disappointment in the state Budget. I quote from the Association's Facebook page:

The School Association is very disappointed that the state Budget for 2021 22 does not contain funding for infrastructure in our school. Obtaining funding for implementation of the master plan we have developed collaboratively remains a strong focus for the School Association. We are disappointed that our approaches to local representatives and the minister did not involve funding in this year's Budget.

It was such a significant issue that the principal recently wrote to parents about the failure to fund upgrades. The principal says:

Dear families, many of you will have seen the state Budget for 2021-22 handed down yesterday. It did not contain any capital works funding for South Hobart Primary School. While our school has been listed as a priority one site for capital investment, I have been advised that for this Budget a total of 24 schools were listed as priority one sites, including our school, and funding requests were received for all of these. There were also an additional 80 capital submissions from other schools not assessed as priority one.

The letter goes on to assure parents that the principal and the school community will keep working towards having the library reinstated. I would be very interested to see the allocation of funds north and south for schools that needed extra funding for infrastructure.

The South Hobart Primary School mother who contacted our office, whose two children are currently at the school and whose third child starts kindergarten next year, said:

Given they were already using the library for classrooms maybe they will have to put Alfie in the attic.

We are not sure South Hobart Primary School has an attic but we take her point. The reality is, however, that four year old Alfie will be almost finished primary school by the time the upgrades at South Hobart Primary School happen on this Government's timeline. Both the former Education minister and the new minister have rightly talked about improving literacy rates. Shutting libraries and failing to plan for obvious population growth in schools is not the way to fix that.

We are calling on the new Education minister to have a focus on the South Hobart Primary School's needs. You have a school population that has doubled in a decade, in fact more than doubled in a decade, you have children who have had their library taken away in order to fit more students into that space. Those children still do not have their library back. They still do not have that sanctuary for quiet learning that is so important to the development of young children's minds and to their education.

We believed after last year's Estimates that in this Budget there would be something for South Hobart Primary School. So, did the South Hobart Primary School community. They have been badly let down. We strongly encourage the new minister to make sure that funding is allocated at least in next year's Budget to make sure that the school can meet its growing student needs but also to make sure those kids get their beautiful library back.