Meet Mr. Devereux
A sea of portables in a paddock.
Tarneit P–9 opened its doors in 2013 with 300 students. By 2014 that had shot up to 800 and numbers are now swelling toward 1,200.
Originally built through Stage 1 funding under the Baillieu Government, the school was then ignored. It has only received funding recently from the Andrews Government.
The delay in funding has meant the school has only been able to build permanent classrooms for the primary students.
“From the street, we look like a proper school,” says principal Peter Devereux. “But it’s like a Hollywood façade. At the back of the junior school building, our secondary students are learning in a sea of portables in a paddock.”
Tarneit P–9 is so pressed for space that the music room, primary science labs and even the school stage are being used as classroom areas. Mr Devereux has been forced to dig into the school’s teaching and learning budgets to cover basic infrastructure costs.
“We’ve got no funding for play facilities or even grass, so we’ve had to use our own budget to pay for astro turf in one area so the kids don’t have to play in mud,” he says. “But to fund that, I had to cut back on one or two teachers.”
In the absence of a secure and predictable funding system, these are the kinds of impossible tradeoffs that principals are being forced to make.
Under the previous Coalition Government, very little money was spent on capital works in public schools. To meet the needs of growing schools, it masterminded a scheme of taking second-hand portables away from schools deemed to have ‘excess space’, and redeploying them to schools in need.
Most of Tarneit’s portables were brought in from other schools. “What principals want is a transparent, certain funding model. If you’re going to build a school, then get it done in the one stage, don’t just leave it half finished,” says Mr Devereux.
“We are not in a marginal seat, which works against us in this system. Infrastructure allocation needs to be managed to fulfill the requirements of schools with the most immediate needs.
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