The State Government has again come under fire over Maitland schools infrastructure, with Freedom of Information documents revealing 64 demountables being used as classrooms across the electorate.
Fairfax Media reported last week how the city was being left behind when it came to schools infrastructure and was unable to obtain from the government any plans to build a new Maitland school.
Last year the Department of Education projected the Hunter will see the biggest student population growth to 2031 outside of Sydney, equivalent to an increase of 5950 primary school enrolments and 4350 high school enrolments.
St Philip’s Christian School is committed to spending $60million on a new childcare to Year 12 school when it finds an appropriate Maitland site and the Catholic Church has spent millions on schools in new housing estates.
But Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison said her constituents want a choice and it shouldn’t be left to the private sector to fill the gap. “With the massive population growth we’ve experienced, it is appalling this government has not built any additional new schools here and it’s not good enough our students study in ageing demountables. What message does this send to them about the value of their education?”
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said demountables are used to manage changing enrolment patterns and temporary accommodation needs such as a result of capital works and maintenance projects.
“Demountables provide air-conditioned learning environments to schools and allow the Department of Education to be highly responsive to changing needs in NSW schools,” he said. “The department continually undertakes planning work to ensure school facilities properly cater for student demand.”
Mr MacDonald reiterated that the government has a number of schools capital works projects in the pipeline across the electorate, but did not answer questions about whether the State was planning to build any new schools here.
Mrs Aitchison has been asking the government to confirm when it will be building new Maitland schools. “Their latest response that no new schools were planned, was completely out of touch with the reality of our community’s needs,” she said.
She recently met with the new Regional Education Director Tim McCallum to discuss several schools-based issues relating to Maitland.
The FOI document shows Maitland with 64 demountable classrooms, Cessnock with 62, Charlestown 41, Port Stephens 34, Wallsend 33, Upper Hunter 28, Swansea 23, Newcastle 23 and Lake Macquarie 21, a total of 329.