Building and maintaining classrooms and facilities
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.” Read more about Mr. Devereux.
The Australian Council for Educational Research estimates that there will be extra 107,520 primary school students in Victoria over the next decade – equivalent to an extra 448 classes per year.
A successful public education system requires facilities that support the effective delivery of a modern curriculum.
The state of an education system’s buildings and infrastructure reflects its government’s commitment to quality teaching and learning. The AEU welcomed the Bracks/Brumby Government’s commitment to rebuild or upgrade every Victorian school by 2017.
Funding for school infrastructure then fell dramatically in 2011 – 2012 under the Baillieu/Napthine governments. As a result of this funding decline, there are no new public schools scheduled to be opened in 2016 despite a rapidly rising school-age population in many areas.
Population growth and lagging investment in new schools and school building upgrades has seen an increasing reliance on the use of portable classrooms. The number of portable classrooms has increased by nearly 10% since 2012 and the movement of portables between schools has increased by 500% in recent years. Many schools now find they are losing open spaces in order to house classrooms that frequently provide sub-standard teaching and learning environments. This churn of portables is also disruptive to schools that lose those buildings.
There hasn’t been adequate funding for school maintenance for years. School principals frequently report they are unable to make necessary repairs without affecting other areas of their budgets, usually to the detriment of programs that support student learning.
The current method of allocating maintenance budgets is insufficient and lacks transparency.
- Investment in new buildings is a sounder strategy than the continual ‘band-aiding’ of existing infrastructure. The huge increase in funding for school buildings in the first Andrews budget ($600 million) was very encouraging.
- This would be enhanced by more transparent methods of allocating capital and maintenance funds that school communities could better understand.
 Australian Council for Educational Research, The Teacher workforce in Australia: Supply, demand and data issues (2015), <http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=policyinsights>, 4, 1 July 2015.
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