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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Hunter MPs lambast government over ‘school over-crowding’

Wallsend state MP Sonia Hornery is the latest Hunter politician to take a swipe at the NSW Government over “school over-crowding” in her electorate.

Charlestown counterpart Jodie Harrison first aired concerns about the issue in February, saying she firmly believed “every child has the right to a quality, local public education”.

The Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning was shocked to discover too many pupils – in the area – were packed into over-enrolled, over-crowded facilities.

According to figures, which surfaced during a Question on Notice session in the Upper House, 11 public schools in Charlestown – Kahibah, Charlestown South, Dudley, Eleebana, Redhead, New Lambton South, Garden Suburb, Warners Bay High, Charlestown East, Belair and Kotara – had exceeded their enrolment cap.

Two of them, such as Kahibah Public and Charlestown South, surpassed the limit by 164% and 141% respectively.

“Sadly, this is a problem across the state and the NSW Government is dragging its feet on building new schools to address the growing crisis,” Ms Harrison said at the time.

Now, following a couple of months of silence from the state government, Ms Hornery is asking NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell to build new schools in the western suburbs of the Wallsend electorate to end over-crowding, with some exceeding capacity by more than 55%.

New Department of Education data shows local faculties are bursting at the seams, including Glendore Public, which is at 156.4%, Jesmond Public (125%), New Lambton Public (118.5%) and Callaghan College Wallsend (113%).

Ms Hornery is calling on the minister to start building the infrastructure where it was needed, rather than continue to move the enrolment boundaries for individual schools.

“What we continue to see is schools at capacity and exceeding their government-enforced enrolment caps, in some cases by more than 50%,” she said.

“We see the department just stack more classrooms into school grounds, without any thought to the surrounding infrastructure and the impact that has on local communities.

“Glendore Public School is the prime example.

“Smack bang in the middle of a rapidly-growing area, the school has enough space for additional classrooms, but the lack of suitable public transport means more and more cars are on the road which has led to traffic gridlock.

“The government just continues to expand the school and puts no thought in to how it impacts on the community.”

Ms Hornery said shifting the intake boundaries posed many difficulties, too.

“We have seen boundary changes to Callaghan College Wallsend, Lambton and New Lambton Public, which has done nothing to ease the over-crowding,” she stated.

“But, it has put further stress and strain on the local road network as parents are forced to now drive their children to school.

“The minister needs to look at where new schools are needed.

“We have rapidly-expanding areas around the western suburbs and infill development around Lambton and New Lambton with no education infrastructure to go with it.

“Investment in new schools in these areas is needed instead of this shuffling of deck chairs on the Titanic mentality that they currently have.”

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