A Warners Bay High student has thrown her support behind Charlestown state MP Jodie Harrison’s campaign to eradicate over-crowding in her electorate’s schools.
The local Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning was recently shocked to discover 11 public educational facilities in the area – Kahibah, Charlestown South, Dudley, Eleebana, Redhead, New Lambton South, Garden Suburb, Warners Bay High, Charlestown East, Belair and Kotara – had exceeded their enrolment cap.
“The environment that pupils are in impacts not only the way they experience learning, but their ability to learn, too,” Ms Harrison said.
According to data, supplied by the Shadow Minister for Education during a Question on Notice session in the Upper House, Kahibah Public surpassed the limit by 164%, ahead of Charlestown South (141%), Dudley Public (138%), Eleebana Public (135%), Redhead Public (132%) and New Lambton South Public (130%).
Warners Bay vice-captain Alexia Street said she harboured similar concerns with Ms Harrison, who raised the issue in NSW Parliament last week.
“As far as I’m aware, over-crowding is only just starting to become a problem for a lot of high schools in the Hunter region, with most of my local favourable high schools already past their enrolment ‘buffer’ and cap,” she explained.
“However, as the population attending schools has increased in recent times, along with the number of students in senior years, the government’s lack of action will eventually cause a crisis.
“I’ve definitely seen the impacts of it at Warners Bay High.
“Senior pupils are sent home early some days of the week as there is no room to simply allow everyone to have a study period.
“Several senior classes are forced to use unfavourable rooms as it is the only classroom available for them to use, particularly as they tend to have a smaller amount of students.
“Most of my schooling career, we have been told that ‘Year 12 takes priority’.
“But, it’s a shame to see – due to the lack of action from the government – it no longer applies.
“It is barely possible to socially distance at most schools.
“And, with worldwide pandemics becoming so very real, the health and safety of students should be a high priority for the government.
“There’s an increasing lack of shaded and covered areas throughout the school, so much so that we utilise some classrooms on wet days as pupils have nowhere else to go.
“However, it also means teachers may miss out on key breaks to supervise students in the classroom.”
Miss Street admitted the topic of “over-crowding” was becoming a talking point among her peers.
“A few members of our student executive team have brought it up upon prompting,” she said.
“It’s always been a known problem but not many pupils bother with the matter as they feel like there’s nothing they can do or no one to talk to about it.
“Most students definitely acknowledge that this is big dilemma throughout schools.”
The youngsters’ fears also led to Miss Street contacting Ms Harrison.
The pair met recently at the Charlestown office to chat about the important subject.
“As Jodie is my state member and Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning, I figured she would know if there were any plans on how to handle increasing population in the education sector,” she said.
“It all starts from early childhood learning and the consequences only grow greater as pupils move up through the system.
“As I’m currently a student, I wanted to find out what was in the pipeline to address the situation.
“How is the government going to handle this spike in population, especially as the only solution schools seem to be able to utilise is to stretch the resources among pupils thinner and thinner each year?
“I thought the meeting went very well.
“Jodie was very kind to me; and it was so lovely to meet her and know that my local member is willing to listen to younger voices within the community.
“We mainly discussed the lengths of the problem and how it impacts daily student experiences at school.
“In addition, we spoke about the length of the problem at primary schools, too, and what is being done – if anything – by the government.”
And, Miss Street had plenty of advice to offer NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and her colleagues.
“The NSW Government should stop relying on mere statistics and really survey the schools properly,” she told the Newcastle Weekly.
“Warners Bay High is only 110% over-crowded, according to the government, but the school is at a breaking point.
“While most things seem like mild inconveniences now, population planning is critical.
“The government should be increasing funding within the education sector to help the schools create a feasible amount of infrastructure for the dramatically-rising amount of students.
“At Warners Bay High, we don’t have any more room for pupils, however we cannot turn children away from quality education due to the government’s poor planning.
“If we keep relying on statistics and treating this problem as just a rising number, instead of looking at how the situation actually impacts our population’s daily experiences within the schooling system, nothing will be properly resolved.”