No answers for Maitland on education infrastructure

NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.Maitland is one of the country’s fastest growing cities yetwhen it comes to educationinfrastructureisbeing left behind.

A dirt floor in a students’toilet, a two-year wait for playground equipment, excessive use of demountables, overflowing classrooms and a failure to committo build new schools, has left Member for Maitland Jenny Aitchison incensed.

Fairfax Media contacted Mrs Aitchison for comment this week, after attempts to learn of any governmentplans for anew school in Maitland failed.

Mrs Aitchison has approachedEducation Minister Rob Stokes about the issuebut has beenrepeatedly given the brush off.She then resorted to searching throughGovernment Information (Public Access) which usually costsaround $30, however the schoolsearch was going to cost$1560.

“I spoke to Infrastructure and Education in December and confirmedthat they had triedto buy land at Gillieston Heights, however the Catholic Church beat them to it,” Mr Aitchison said.“The government’s eye istotally off the ball. Ithasn’tbuilt a new school inMaitland since the election. Thelast new additional school built was by Labor at Ashtonfield in 2007,”she said.

NSW Education’s media unit gave little away about plans forMaitland:“A capital works project is being planned for Rutherford Public School andwill include new permanent classrooms and upgraded core facilities. The design of the new areas will incorporate future-focused learning strategies that support the needs of students and their community, and provide a learning-centric approach to education,” a spokesperson said.

There was no response to our questionabout costing, nor about plans for a new school:“We can’t add anything to the response about future projects, which are usually announced in State budgets.”

Mrs Aitchison saideducation infrastructureis shrouded in secrecy.“Maitland peopleneed to know that planning is underway andsome sort of groundwork is being done. This has hit a political level andstudentsare suffering.”

There was much fanfare last year withnewsRutherford Public School would share in $4.2billion promised to NSW schools for upgrade and redevelopment works.

Last year the Department of Education has 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.

The NSW Auditor General’sPlanning for school infrastructurereport said there had been “chronic under-investment in NSW government school infrastructure and deficiencies in asset planning” over the past decade.

“Students are working fromdemountables, some holding class in theircomputer rooms so other students don’t have access to IT facilities,” Mrs Aitchison said.“Justrecentlythe dirt floor in theboys’ toilets at Gillieston School was replacedwhich beggars belief.

“That same schoolonly just had itsplayground reinstated, something they lost in the 2015superstorm.The government needs to have an honest consultation with the community about what they are going to do about schools in Maitland, not leave it to the Catholic system orprivate providers to do it for them.”